Qualifying for playoffs as a second-year team in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association would have been an astonishing achievement. But, when the men's soccer post-season begins, the UNBC Timberwolves will observe the proceedings rather than participate in them.
There's often a fine line between missing playoffs and making them and that's true in the case of the Timberwolves. This club isn't far away from doing some good things. In fact, as it stands now, the T-wolves are only a player or two short of making a significant leap forward.
Their primary need is a game-breaker -- a guy who can turn a one-goal deficit into a tie, or a tie into a win, with a flick of his foot.
Looking at UNBC's record this season, the team has suffered a pair of one-goal losses and has battled to ties on three occasions. If the one-goal setbacks turned into ties and the ties became wins, the Timberwolves would have an additional 11 points and would hold the third and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Instead, as UNBC prepares to face the University of Victoria Vikes Saturday and Sunday (noon start times) at North Cariboo Fields, the squad is playing for pride only. The Timberwolves' record is 2-7-3, which has them fifth and last in the Pacific.
Through 12 games this season, UNBC has scored just nine times, so some additional offensive firepower would be most welcome. That prospective game-breaker -- nameless at this point but hopefully on the radar screen of head coach Alan Alderson -- would complement current T-wolves like Tofa Fakunle, Cheona Edzerza and Brett Bobier, who share the team lead with two goals each. Other markers this season have been provided by Tyson Hunter, Jake Vickers and Connor Noftle.
It's easy to wonder how much of a difference Nicolas Favia and Dilly Ohuegbe would have made this season. Both players specialize in the attacking part of the game and both had planned to suit up for the Timberwolves this year. Unfortunately, they backed out when they realized UNBC didn't offer the academic program they wanted, kinesiology.
And, speaking of offence, here's a name from last season -- Sourosh Amani. Imagine if he were still part of the UNBC men's soccer program. When it came to finishing off scoring opportunities, Amani was among the best in Canada West in 2012, right until the moment he broke his right leg during a Sept. 30 home game against the Lethbridge Pronghorns.
Who knows? A healthy Amani could still be here, scoring game-changing goals for the T-wolves. Instead, his injury led to his eventual departure for his home country, the Netherlands.
All in all, however, the Timberwolves have progressed nicely in their first two years of Canada West membership, their biggest improvements on the defensive side of the ball. Last season, they allowed 47 goals in 14 games. This season, that number has plummeted to 27 through a dozen contests.
In ending the current campaign against the Vikes, the Timberwolves will face a team that beat them 3-1 and 8-0 in their first-ever Canada West games last fall. The upcoming doubleheader will serve as a good measuring stick for Alderson as he continues to evaluate his club and build for the future.
As for the UNBC players, their entire focus will be on posting another win or two before they head into their off-season.
One day soon, with the right addition in uniform, they may be using games like these to ramp up for playoffs.