Callum Willmott would have preferred his first collegiate hat trick been more conventional not one disguised as an own goal but the Niagara University sophomore isn’t complaining.
The Purple Eagles (8-0-4, 2-0-1 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) men’s soccer team ran their unbeaten streak to 12 games, their best stsart ever, after beating rival Canisius, 3-2, Saturday night at the Demske Sports Complex.
The game was tied at 2 with 6:40 left when Willmott grazed a shot just past the goal line on a play that was originally ruled an own goal. However replays showed that Canisius’ Chris Berardi kicked it then it bounced off Willmott for the score.
“I guess I got a toe on it at the end," Willmott said. “It was a scramble in the box and ricochet over the line. … A hat trick … I’ll take that."
The Purple Eagles, the North Atlantic’s No. 1 ranked team by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), should remain in the top spot for a fourth consecutive week.
The Purple Eagles now hold a 24-20-3 lead over Canisius in the series that dates back to 1969. Canisius (7-4-2, 2-0-1) came into Saturday’s game ranked fourth by the NSCAA in the North Atlantic.
“Canisius is a very good team and you can’t take anything away and their record proves it,” Niagara coach Chase Brooks said. “Coming here and beating them at home is obviously a very fun thing to do but we want to win every game.’’
During an early-season stretch where Canisius won seven of eight, scoring resembled target practice as the Griffs outscored opponents, 20-10, but scored just one goal in back-to-back losses to Rider and Loyola to open Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. The reason certainly isn’t because of lack of effort as the Griffs fired away with 16 shots on goal in the first half and 24 for the game.
“At the end of the day we need to put more away and stop giving up easy goals," Canisius coach Dermot McGrane said.
Said Canisius’ Gavin Falconer: “It’s about getting balls in the box and Coach talked about that at the beginning of the game. There was a lot more of that at the beginning of the season but it hasn’t been there the last few games.’’
Willmott got Niagara going early by scoring in the game’s 16th minute. Ken Cooper sent a cross pass from the right side then Willmott beat Canisius defenders from the right side and drilled a shot by goalie Kareem Gray.
The Golden Griffins’ Gavin Falconer answered with an unassisted goal with 15:51 left after gathering a loose ball and firing a shot by Brett Petricek. It was Falconer’s ninth goal of the season.
Willmott scored again, this time on a header off a feed from Darren Cooper that have the Purple Eagles a 2-1 lead. Canisius tied the game at 2 with 10:06 left in the second half on a goal by Asani Samuels.