It was the U Sports Canada West men’s soccer result everyone was expecting Saturday afternoon at North Cariboo Field.
There would be no earth-shattering upset.
Still smarting from a 1-0 loss Friday in Prince George, the UBC Thunderbirds weren’t about to lose again to the UNBC Timberwolves - affectionately known to their loyal followers on this weekend as the UNBC Underdogs.
The Thunderbirds pounded in two goals in each of the halves and went home to Vancouver with a 4-1 win, satisfied they had the appropriate response after losing to the T-wolves the previous day for the first since UNBC joined the university league in 2012.
Unlike Friday’s game, in which both teams had stretches of time when they owned the ball, the T-birds were dominant in that department, only rarely allowing the T-wolves any extended offensive zone time.
UBC missed on a couple glorious chances early in the game and got on the scoreboard at 21 minutes. Victory Shimbusho booted in his seventh goal of the season, converting a turnover in the crease with a shot that went behind goalie Ty Venhola and in off the body of Brett Bobier. At 34 minutes, a free kick from Zach Verhoven was headed in by Mackenzie Cole for a 2-0 lead.
The T-wolves played a much better second half and started it in the attack. Matt Jubinville had two shots from just outside the crease blocked and Bobier laced a bullet on net from close range, but goalie Chad Bush was ready for it, leaping to get his hands in the way.
Twenty minutes into the second half, Luke Griffin was set up in front by Patrick Izett for a 3-0 lead. As demoralizing as that was for UNBC, they kept their feet moving. That drew a foul and Cody Gysbers made good on the free kick, the second goal of the weekend to beat T-birds goalie Bush, who had allowed just four goals in seven games heading into the doubleheader in Prince George.
Izett capped the scoring at the 77th minute with a shot from the top of the box. Venhola faced 12 shots while Bush had five on net.
“It felt good, it was tough coming in at first but we got a few chances early in the second half and it would have been nice to bury one of those,” said Jubinville, a 24-year-old third-year human resources student from Prince George. He played his first game in more than year due to an ankle injury he suffered playing indoor soccer in April, after he’d taken a year-long break from his studies.
“The guys were getting tired by the end of the second half after the second game,” he said. “UBC’s a great team and we’re happy to come out with three points against the second-best team in the nation. But at the same time we have to focus on the next four games because they’re going to be big for us. We would love to steal all four of those.”
Mike Mosher has 22 years of experience as head coach for the T-birds and in that time has taken his team to seven CIS/U Sports national finals, winning four of them. Situated in one of the country’s hotbeds of soccer talent, UBC teams have a long tradition of winning, and winning a lot. Since 1972 the T-Birds have won nationals 13 times. Until UNBC beat them Friday, the T-wolves had won just 13 games in their entire Canada West history, dating back to the inaugural season in 2012. UBC had 50 wins over that same span. Losing Friday’s game did not sit well with them.
“It was a bit of a sleepless night, that’s for sure, the way the result went (Friday) and at the end of the day it’s up to them, how are you going to respond when you face disappointments like that?” said Mosher. "Fortunately for us, when we lost two in a row at the halfway point of the season, we’ve got lots of time to fix it so it was a good response today.’
The win improved their first-place Pacific Division record to 6-2-1.
“We take pride in being able to keep the ball and have the ball more than our opponents and we also take pride in being able to defend from the front and everybody plays a role defensively, not just the defenders and goalkeeper but everybody,” said Mosher.
UNBC (4-5-3) has four games left in the season, two in Kelowna next weekend against UBC-Okanagan and two at home the following weekend against Fraser Valley. The T-birds’ series should provide them a confidence boost.
“To play UBC once on a weekend is hard, to play them twice on a weekend, no one has to do it except us so we knew it would be exceptionally hard,” said T-wolves head coach Steve Simonson. “We spent a lot of energy (Friday) and I think that showed in the first 25 minutes, we just couldn’t match it. But as the game went on, quite frankly, if we had scored early in the second half, which we could have, it’s a whole other game.”
The T-wolves were missing all-star defender Gordon Hall, out serving a one-game suspension for an accumulation of three yellow cards, and without him they had difficulty keeping UBC shooters in check.
“Him not being there changes a lot of things for us,” said Simonson. “They were definitely here to show that (Friday’s loss) was a blip to them, but I don’t think today takes away from anything we did (Friday). We didn’t have any chances in the first half and in the second half we had quite a bit and we can be really proud of that. We’re very happy with how this weekend had gone.”