The elevator ride that was the season for the UNBC Timberwolves men’s soccer team ended Sunday afternoon when the cable snapped, taking with it the T-wolves’ hopes of playing in the postseason.
The weekend started in Abbotsford for UNBC where not just once but twice the Fraser Valley Cascades conjured up late-game dramatics to spoil the day for the T-wolves.
On Friday the Cascades scored the only goal of the game in injury time when Andrew Peat got his head on the receiving end of a free kick. The 1-0 win allowed Fraser Valley to leapfrog the T-wolves into third place in the U Sports Canada West Pacific Division.
Then in the rematch Saturday night, while nursing a 2-1 lead in the 90th minute, UNBC was caught on a hand-ball in the box and Cascades midfielder Gurmaan Jhaj scored on the ensuing penalty kick, his team-record 13th goal of the season, to give the Cascades a 2-2 tie.
That goal meant the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack still had a shot at catching the T-wolves.
But, to do so, they had to knock off the undefeated UBC Thunderbirds, the
No. 1-ranked team in the country, which they did on Sunday afternoon in Kamloops.
Defender Josh Barton converted a free kick from Mitch Popadyenetz 45 minutes into the game for the only goal and goalie Jackson Gardner had just one save to make to preserve a 1-0 TRU victory, which ended the T-wolves’ season.
“UNBC was two minutes away from a third-place finish in the Pacific, and that’s quite an accomplishment,” said T-wolves head coach Steve Simonson Saturday on canadawest.org. “For these boys and how far they’ve come, I’m so proud of them, I really am.”
“It was a great performance from us (Saturday) – I thought it was fantastic. We knew they were going to come at us at the end. To be undone on a penalty call, that’s tough. But we’ve got to respect the referee’s decision and go on from there.”
Rookie Anthony Preston, with his fourth of the season, and Francesco Bartolillo, in his final U Sports game, scored Saturday for UNBC.
The T-wolves (5-4-6) finished fifth, establishing new team records for fewest losses (four) and most goals scored (20) in a season.
The WolfPack (6-6-3) was one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch, winning four of their last five and they went undefeated in their final six games. Fourth-place TRU, who beat UBC for national bronze last year in Kamloops, will play Alberta (12-0-2), the Prairie Division regular season champions, in a single-elimination playoff game Friday in Edmonton.