Just when it was starting to seem like his team might be snakebitten, Colchester’s Matt Goudie proved he had one more big play in him.
With the score tied 1-1 after nearly 100 minutes of grueling soccer against No. 3 Hartford on a frigid afternoon, the senior forward was able to put several bad breaks behind him, and deliver a game-winning goal to push the second-seeded Lakers into the Division I state championship game.
The finish could not have been much more dramatic.
Gathering a ball from about 30 yards out, Goudie split and propelled past two defenders before firing a rocket past Hartford goalkeeper Aaron Parker to deliver a 2-1 Colchester victory and set off a wild celebration between Lakers players and fans on the far sideline.
“I just wanted it to be over. The ball came in, two defenders, they were side by side, parallel to each other, and I knew if I could get through that little gap, I could be on goal,” said Goudie. “I did that, and the keeper didn’t really come out as far as I expected, and I slid it into the back of the net.”
The winning boot also allowed for one huge collective sigh of relief for the home team because, simply put, none of the big calls were going their way.
After scoring his team’s first goal in the 22nd minute off a deflection of a shot by Ben Seaman, Goudie had a potential second goal disallowed by a fraction of a second at the end of the first half. But the referees ruled his shot had not crossed the goal line before the horn had sounded.
The 1-0 halftime score stood for nearly the entire second half until a stunning Hartford equalizer.
In the 78th minute, John Lewis’ header of a Jed Sass corner kick deflected into the net off two Colchester (14-2-1) defenders. Two minutes from what looked like a Lakers’ victory, the game was suddenly headed to overtime.
In the first OT, Matt Brien appeared to have the winner for Colchester after he finished Tucker Jean’s deflected shot. But officials ruled Colchester was offsides and fans who had stormed the field in celebration were forced to retreat.
“I was actually concerned about the mental breakdown after being up, and scoring those, and then having them (the goals) called back,” Lakers coach Dennis McCannell said. “I was really concerned there was going to be too much of a letdown, but they kept it up and kept the pressure on.
“But we knew we were going to get the opportunities, and were fortunate.”
Despite being outshot 19-9 on the day, Hartford (14-3) coach Steve Sass was disappointed his team couldn’t pull the game out in overtime, when the Hurricanes clearly had additional momentum after their game-tying goal.
“It was a really good game and I thought we gave them everything they could handle,” Steve Sass said. “I thought we were the better team in overtime and had plenty of good chances to take goals, but credit to them, they were resilient and they took the goal that they needed to take in the second overtime.”
Both Parker (15 saves), and Colchester goalkeeper Liam Mooney (eight saves) made great plays in overtime to thwart several scoring threats.
“Credit to Hartford, they had a great run this year,” said Jean. “But we kept pushing, and we know what this team’s about. Our goal the whole year is to get to the finals and we did it.”
Colchester will play No. 1 Champlain Valley on Saturday at Burlington High School for the state championship.