By: Jamie Palatini
(HAMDEN, Conn.) – Graciano Brito’s two second half goals made the difference on Sunday as Quinnipiac defeated Central Connecticut State University 3-1 in Hamden. The win improves the Bobcats’ record to 8-4-2 overall, and 3-2 in the Northeast Conference. With the loss, CCSU drops to 6-6-2 overall, and 0-4-1 in the NEC.
The Bobcats struck early in the first half to take the lead. In the eighth minute, Brito took a shot from just inside the penalty box that was saved by Blue Devils’ goalkeeper Paul Armstrong. But the rebound came right to the feet of freshman Durval Pereira, who buried the ball in the top left corner of the goal. It was Pereira’s fifth goal of the season, and it gave the Bobcats a 1-0 lead.
The rest of the first half was highlighted by physical play as four yellow cards were given out in a span of 15 minutes. However, Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa said he wasn’t surprised by the physical nature of play.
“Any time that we play Central, it’s always a physical battle, and it’s always a game that’s really gritty,” Da Costa said. “Not only is it a pivotal conference game, but it’s a local rivalry, and we’ve always had some heated battles with these guys for a number of years.”
The physical play came to a head with just two minutes to go in the opening half, and resulted in a goal for the Blue Devils. CCSU’s Yan Kuklowski made a move past Quinnipiac’s Pierre Soubrier toward the Bobcats’ goal. Soubrier then proceeded to pull Kuklowski down inside the penalty box, resulting in a penalty kick for CCSU. Quinnipiac goalkeeper Freddy Hall dove to his right, but guessed wrong as Kuklowski’s shot found the lower left corner to tie the game up at one.
But that was as close as CCSU would get. In the 68th minute, Brito received a pass from Pereira just outside of the penalty box. He turned, moved past two defenders and fired a shot past Armstrong into the bottom right corner to give Quinnipiac the 2-1 lead.
Brito added to that lead 12 minutes later on a similar play. He received a pass near the top of the penalty box from sophomore Dominic Adams, who had two assists in the game. Brito moved right and beat his defender, then fired a shot across his body into the bottom left corner of the net to spot the Bobcats a 3-1 lead they would not relinquish.
With those two goals, Quinnipiac has now scored 22 of their 28 goals (75 percent) after the first half. Da Costa simply feels that this is just how his team operates.
“It’s the way this team is. We’ve had our moments were we didn’t have very good first halves, we’ve started off real slow and allowed the other teams to build some momentum and gain some confidence,” Da Costa said. “A lot of the time, I don’t have to say much (at halftime). These guys know exactly where they stand, and they know what they need to do.”
As the season winds down, four games remain on the schedule for the Bobcats. They are currently fifth in the NEC with nine points, and sit one point behind Monmouth for the final playoff spot. Last year Quinnipiac finished 0-3-2 down the stretch and missed the playoffs by a single point. Da Costa said his team needs to forget about the past if they are going to make it into postseason play this year.
“Our season is only about the next four games. Nothing else matters to us,” he said. “We’re not concerned with any game that we’ve played up to this point. It’s about the next four games ahead of us.”
The first of those four games will take place next Friday in Moon Township, Pa. against Robert Morris, who is currently tied for last in the NEC. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m.