ST. PAUL, Minn. – Goalkeeper James Neher (So./Mahtomedi, Minn./Mahtomedi) came up with some key saves and Will Corcoran (So./Mahtomedi, Minn./Mahtomedi) tallied the game winner early in overtime as the Carleton College men’s soccer team posted a 2-1 victory at University of St. Thomas. With the triumph, the Knights clinched a MIAC playoff berth for the fifth consecutive season. The loss, meanwhile, eliminates St. Thomas from this year’s playoff race.
With just one game remaining in the regular season, Carleton sits atop the MIAC table with a 7-1-1 ledger in conference games. The Knights—who benefit from Bethel’s 1-0 upset of No. 15 St. Olaf today—can now clinch a share of the MIAC crown with a tie in Saturday’s match against the Oles, while a victory in that game would give Carleton the outright title.
Nathan Park (Fy./Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) put Carleton in front with his third goal of the year. He scooped up a clearance in the 41st minute and ripped a laser from the right edge of the 18-yard box into the top corner.
Neher turned in another solid effort, matching his season high with seven saves. He did his best to keep the Knights in front with a pair of impressive second-half stops.
In the 59th minute, the Tommies’ Mike Hutton—the reigning MIAC player of the week—took a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box. He sent a rocket destined for the lower corner, but the Carleton keeper was able to re-direct the shot beyond the left post.
Neher’s next big save came in the 77th minute as St. Thomas was awarded a penalty kick following a foul at the edge of the box. Hutton fired another blast, but Neher kept this one out as well, the first time in Hutton’s collegiate career that he did not convert on a penalty kick attempt.
Hutton would not be denied and finally notched the equalizer in the 79th minute, picking up his 35th career goal.
“St. Thomas is an incredibly dangerous attacking team and Mike Hutton is the engine that makes them go,” said Carleton head coach Bob Carlson. “He's very talented, one of the hardest-working players I've seen in our league in a long time, and most importantly a class act.”
It didn’t take long for Carleton to strike in overtime, collecting the game winner in the 92nd minute. Devin Tomson-Moylan (Fy./St. Paul, Minn./Central) played a ball in the air, and Tim Wills (Sr./Portland, Ore./Central Catholic) rose above two Tommies to flick the ball on to a sprinting Corcoran. The Carleton midfielder was then one-on-one with St. Thomas keeper Jace Leiferman and slotted a low shot to seal the deal with his fourth goal of the campaign.
Today’s game marked the Knights’ fifth straight victory over the Tommies, with the last three all being by one-goal margins. Two of contests went to overtime, and both times Wills delivered the pass that sprung a teammate for the game-winner. In 2009, Wills setup Wes Elfman’s goal in the closing seconds of a double-overtime contest at St. Thomas.
The physical play on the pitch in today’s match is reflected in the box score, as the teams were called for 24 combined fouls, and a total of six yellow cards handed out.
The Knights improve to 9-1-2 over the last month-plus and are now 42-6-4 (.846) overall in MIAC play since Oct. 14, 2006. Carleton is looking to capture its fourth conference crown over the last five seasons. The Knights shared the title in 2007, then won it outright in both 2008 and 2009 before tying for second place in 2010.
“We know we will need our best on Saturday against St. Olaf,” said Carlson.
Kickoff for Saturday’s match between cross-town rivals is slated for 1 p.m. at Rolf Mellby Field on the St. Olaf campus.