Bethlehem's Austin Hughes grimaced as his shot went wide of the Niskayuna goal late in the second half of Saturday's Suburban Council boys soccer game. Then, he shrugged off the missed opportunity with a smile.
After all, Hughes already had three goals. One more might have been overkill.
He couldn't seem to miss except for that last shot," said Bethlehem coach Phil Ridgway. "He played a great game."
Hughes' hat trick sparked the Eagles to a 4-0 victory over Silver Warriors and moved Bethlehem (7-3-1 league, 8-3-2 overall) within one-half point of Niskayuna (6-4-1) in the Blue Division standings heading into the final week of the regular season.
"Defensively, we played one of our best games, and we capitalized on some nice counterattacks," said Ridgway.
"We're scratching our heads right now because it certainly shouldn't have been a 4-0 game," said Niskayuna coach Jeff Ormsbee.
After a scoreless first half, Hughes went to work on Niskayuna's defense. The senior midfielder forced a turnover less than three minutes into the second half, chipped the ball past a Niskayuna defender and shot it past goaltender Luke Citrinitti, who came out from the goal line to cut down the angle.
"The (Niskayuna) defense was playing slow, so I just got lucky that time," said Hughes.
Sean Fishel had a chance to tie the game for the Silver Warriors 90 seconds later. Fishel had an open look at the Bethlehem goal, but his shot sailed wide past the left post.
That turned out to be an unfortunate break for Niskayuna. Less than two minutes later, Nick Jackson lofted a long, high crossing pass on goal, and Hughes headed the ball into the left corner of the net to give Bethlehem a 2-0 lead.
"I was waiting for one of those to come across all season, and it happened," said Hughes.