A message was delivered by the UNBC Timberwolves men's soccer team to the rest of the CIS.
The young T-wolves team pulled off a last-minute 1-1 tie with the Alberta Golden Bears, the third-ranked team in the country when the first week of the 2013 Canada West Conference of the CIS began last week. The point the T-wolves earned against the Golden Bears, the 2012 Canada West silver medalists, is the first one against a longtime CIS team. The T-wolves picked up their first win against fellow expansion team Mount Royal last season.
The T-wolves were rewarded in the dying seconds of Sunday's game at the North Cariboo men's fields with a penalty kick, which rookie Tofa Fakunie successfully converted, much to the delight of the 275 fans and for head coach Alan Alderson.
"In my heart I so wanted us to get a reward for the hard work we had done today," said Alderson. "We went toe to toe with one of the best programs in the country and we traded scoring chances for 90 minutes. It would've been tough to walk in that change room with a one-nil loss. We fully deserved to get something out of this game."
The T-wolves pressured the Golden Bears throughout the game to the point that in the final 15 minutes the Alberta men looked frustrated by the pressure of the constant attack. Alberta took a 1-0 lead in the 40th minute of the first half on a perfect header by second-year midfielder Mohamed Tellani. In the second half, the T-wolves had their chances but were unable to beat Alberta fifth-year keeper Jay Vetsch.
But the hard work was finally rewarded when second-year T-wolf Brett Bobier broke in hard into the Alberta box, forcing a Golden Bears player to take him down, creating the penalty kick in the final minute of injury time.
"One of the reasons we shifted him to the front line for the last little bit was because he can create havoc in the box," said Alderson.
UNBC rookie Fakunie was awarded the penalty kick and made no mistake doing what he does best and beating Vetsch to tie the game at 1-1.
"I knew that as soon as [the referee] pointed to the spot that this is it, it's either now or never," said Fakunie. "I've always gone left all my life; I'm never going to change my mind. If the goalie goes the way I'm going and I see him going there, I'm going to hit it harder."
Earlier in the half, Fakunie and longtime Calgary Foothills Soccer Club teammate Jake Vickers created some excitement for the fans when they broke loose on a two-on-one opportunity, but were foiled from getting a shot away by a good defensive play by an Alberta defender.
"Me and Jake have played together since we were 12 years old on the same team," said the five-foot-three 17-year-old. "I know Jake. Jake knows me. We're best pals."
The T-wolves improved to 0-1-1 on the season with the tie and avenged a 7-0 loss Friday to the Saskatchewan Huskies.
"Despite our result on Friday night there were a lot of really, really positive things in that game," said Alderson. "The best thing about this group is they listen and learn. [Sunday morning] we talked about the difference between being in a game and providing good effort and having incredible confidence in doing the right assertive thing."
The T-wolves are off this weekend, returning to action Friday, Sept. 20 when the Winnipeg Wesmen visit Prince George. Alderson said his young team of first and second year players are hungry to prove they belong in the CIS.
"Our young guys showed them we're excited to be in this league and there's some real promise for our future," said Alderson. "I'm hoping there'll be a lot more surprise for people this year."