VANCOUVER, BC- The parity of Canada West soccer had been something to behold this year. At the start of the season, the UBC Thunderbirds were pegged as title contenders, but with how their season has gone thus far there’s little to suggest a repeat. However, off the backs of their worst loss in a decade, they still found themselves sitting in third place, heading home to take on the UBCO Heat.
This was how their return home played out.
Game 1, October 8
UBC and UBCO got underway at Thunderbird Stadium shortly after the sunset. A cool, frosty night descended upon the players, and it seemed to reflect in their play. Neither team could really get into a rhythm, the game quickly devolving into choppy, staccato sequences that lacked flow.
Balls were punted forth, through passes not met, and many chances coming to nothing. The first half came to a close with not much in terms of eventfulness, both teams understandably a little disappointed with how it went.
The second half became much more open, with teams trading chances. Chris Lee continued his strong play, sending a rising shot that was just tipped over the goal in the 56th minute. His corner delivery also caused chaos in the box, a goalline clearance saving the day.
However, the match became marred with some controversy, as the referee refused to give what looked to be three clear-cut penalties for UBC. Despite the player’s protests, no spot-kicks were given as the play continued.
It took until the 74th minute before the T-Birds managed to find the opening goal. Off a Mitch Piraux corner, it was Chris Fisher who got his head onto the end of the ball. He had been having a strong game up until that point, and the goal was a long time coming.
However, like many games before, UBC conceded in the 84th minute, an Aidan Tuck free-kick that was finished by Owen Spicker. The Thunderbirds had to settle for a 1-1 draw on Friday night, disappointed to lose out on the three points on offer.
Game 2, October 9
Coming out Saturday night for the second match, the T-Birds and Heat were greeted by the rain letting up. The match kicked off much in the same manner, with chippy play from both sides once more. There were more throw-ins than attempts on goal.
Though listed on the roster as a defender, Nicholas Momotani was slotted in on the left-wing tonight. He and Lee linked up for most of the chances in the first half, Momotani using his pace to take it at the UBCO defenders. However, the half ended much like the first, with the score 0-0 at the break.
In the second half, a 53rd-minute red card was awarded to the Heat’s Sam McDonald for a reckless challenge. Playing a man down, the Heat soon began to be pushed back by the Thunderbirds.
Bradley Richardson’s pace was on display tonight, and as a result of his hard work, he was hauled down in the box. Mackenzie Cole stepped up to the penalty spot in the 69th minute and made no mistake with the PK.
Transfer striker Tristan Nkoghe managed to tally on the insurance marker in the 85th, hunting down a through ball and chipping it past Nicholas Reitsma to give the T-Birds comfort. For a team that has struggled to close out games, tonight’s 2-0 result could provide a confidence boost going forth into the 2nd half of the regular season.
With the win, UBC manages to stay in 3rd place, sitting 1 point back of TRU in second and 2 points behind UVic in first. They return to action at home for their final matches at Thunderbird Stadium against the Trinity Western Spartans, with kickoff set for 7:30 PM on October 15th and 16th.