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T-birds improve their view at the top

There's no denying it, the UBC Thunderbirds are the most successful men's soccer team in CIS history. Since the league began in 1972, no other team has won 12 CIS titles.
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Tofa Fakunle (green) blocks Chris Serban (white) from getting to the loose ball as the UNBC Timberwolves took on the 2nd ranked UBC Thunderbirds in Canada West men's soccer action on Sunday at the North Cariboo Senior Soccer League fields. Citizen Photo by James Doyle October 4, 2015

There's no denying it, the UBC Thunderbirds are the most successful men's soccer team in CIS history.

Since the league began in 1972, no other team has won 12 CIS titles. With four championships and five final appearances since 2004, UBC is a perennial powerhouse and this year's edition is no exception.

Ranked second in the CIS, the T-birds gave the UNBC Timberwolves more than they could handle in a pair of 2-0 victories over the weekend at North Cariboo Field. UBC rested five starters for most of Sunday's game and saved until the second half. When they entered the game the field noticeably titled toward four-year veteran goalie Ty Venhola and he was under siege, forced to make several unbelievable saves to keep his team in the game.

Venhola did what he could, robbing UBC scoring leader Gagan Dosanjh on three occasions, but was virtually powerless to stop a penalty shot from close range in the 82nd minute when UNBC defender Daniel Goodey was called for an illegal takedown of T-bird forward Sean Einarsson. UNBC argued the check was nobody's fault, but to no avail. Fifth-year midfielder Harry Lakhan aimed his shot left and Venhola dove the opposite way, which sealed the deal for the T-birds Sunday, their eighth-straight win over UNBC.

"We've got a solid team and we're at the midpoint of the season and we've talked about trying to start to peak toward the back end of the season and I think it's coming," said Mike Mosher, now in his 20th season as UBC head coach.

"What I really liked from the second half (Saturday) and from the game today was how solid we were defensively. We really didn't give up much. We possessed the ball a lot and today we created a few more scoring chances than we did Saturday and we certainly did in the second half."

UBC midfielder Milad Mehrabi, another five-year CIS veteran, opened the scoring at the 13-minute mark, booting the ball in off a scramble in front of Venhola. As the play developed, the line judge initially signaled UBC was offside but the call was waived off by the referee.

While they didn't like the outcome, fourth-year UNBC defender Brett Bobier said the two-game series taught the T-wolves valuable lessons they intend to use in their four remaining games.

"Playing a team like that will help us get better, we're learning how play through teams like that and learning how to possess the ball and move forward and despite losing 2-0 I think we did a good job of that throughout the game," said Bobier.

"They cover for their other players well and don't leave too many holes on the defensive end. At the time (the rulings on the field) get you frustrated but some of those things you can't control and you have to not let it affect your game as much, just stay focused on what you need to do."

The two wins in Prince George improved the T-birds' record to 6-0-1 atop the West standings. UNBC remained last at 1-7-0 heading into a bye weekend.

"UBC is one of the best teams in the country, national champs two years out of the last three, and we knew we were in for a tough weekend," said UNBC interim head coach Steve Simonson. "In both games we were close, fighting to level it up at one. Both goals today, there was an interpretation from the referee that didn't go our way and that's sometimes the way it goes.

"The first half of both games were OK for us. But for 20 minutes in the second half of both games they were absolutely dominant on us. If Ty doesn't play well they score two or three more and that's his job."

At the other end of the field, goalie Chad Bush was the lonely Maytag repairman, forced to make just one save. The Ottawa native made five stops Saturday as UBC outshot the T-wolves 10-5. Kerman Pannu and Einarsson were the goalscorers.