T-wolves miss Canada West playoff train

One bad half of soccer Saturday at Masich Place Stadium was the knockout punch the UNBC Timberwolves had hoped to avoid. It was a shot to the gut that dropped them out of the Canada West Conference men's soccer playoff race.
Justin Donaldson broke a scoreless draw in the 58th minute and opened the floodgates for the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack. The visitors from Kamloops scored three more goals and stung the T-wolves 4-0 Saturday, then beat UNBC again 2-0 in Sunday's rematch to lock up the last remaining Pacific Division playoff berth.
Until that second half Saturday, the T-wolves were every step as dangerous as the WolfPack, each team trading chances in what was an evenly-played game. Not long after UNBC striker Stu Rowlands put a shot off the goalpost, Donaldson took the ball wide on T-wolves defender Jonah Smith and launched a high shot in behind goalie Rob Goodey.
Then in the 72nd minute, a forward clearance by TRU put the ball at the feet of Jan Pirretas Glasmacher and from 20 yards away he booted in the second goal. Donaldson scored his second of the game on a penalty shot in the 78th minute and Dylan Hooper connected on a free kick goal at the 86:22 mark.  
Over and out. They needed to win both games to cinch a top-four finish in the brutally tough Pacific Division but failed to deliver and that sealed the T-wolves' fate, a second-straight season without a playoff game.
"We felt like we had good control in the game for about 60 minutes and that one goal really changed it," said UNBC midfielder Owen Stewart. "At that point we had to push because we knew we had to win and that kind of speaks in the final scoreline. It's us going right to the end and trying to find a goal so you give up a bit defensively and that happens."
UNBC (4-8-3) finished seventh while TRU (6-5-5) leapfrogged the Fraser Valley Cascades into fourth place. The Cascades (5-5-5) lost their postseason grip Sunday in Vancouver with a 3-0 loss to UBC.
"I thought for a good chunk of that game (Saturday,) until whenever they went ahead, we had chances to be the team in the lead and we got beat by a good player in Justin (Donaldson), who's a fantastic striker, a fifth-year in this league and one of the top attackers," said T-wolves head coach Steve Simonson. "They're a tough team to play against, they're quick and aggressive and capitalize on your mistakes and they were clinical in their finishing."
The T-wolves began the season with 15 newcomers on the 32-player roster and plenty of question marks. With the exception of Saturday's second half, none of their 15 games were blowout losses, an encouraging sign considering the calibre of their Canada West opponents.
"Everyone talked about last year, losing 10 players, this is going to be a big rebuilding year - we probably did better than most people on the outside would have given us credit for," said Simonson. "It was more a changed season, lots of new faces and to go into the final weekend with a chance to still make the playoffs in a division where only one team had clinched before (Friday) night, that shows it's a really competitive division. We've been in every single game this season so I can't be more proud of them on the whole."
The T-wolves anticipate losing just one player next season, with midfielder Jonathan Botelho graduating after five seasons on the practice roster. The Prince George youth soccer product was subbed in for his first career game action late in the second half Sunday.
"If you were to tell us at the beginning of the year we'd be playing for a playoff spot come the last weekend of the year I know all of us would take that," said Stewart. "It stings right now but I know we'll look back and be pretty pleased."

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