VANCOUVER, BC – The UBC Thunderbirds got their Canada West title defense underway with a solid come-from-behind effort against the Calgary Dinos. With a 2-1 victory, the T-Birds clinched a spot in the Canada West Semifinals.
A beautiful Sunday afternoon was the perfect backdrop for the final quarterfinal match in Canada West. With the sun shining in the cool crisp Halloween air, the teams kicked off in due fashion just past 1 PM Pacific time.
Goals proved hard to come by in the first half. Though the Thunderbirds commanded most of the territorial and possession advantage, the Dinos would have the best chances. Gareth Smith-Doyle found himself with a couple of breaks, but the offside flag would get him both times. Smith-Doyle would have the best chance of the first half though, as a low cross gave him a volley point-blank on goal, which was stopped by Bennett McKay.
Mitch Piraux was engaged for UBC early on, sending in the many corners that the T-Birds won. Chris Lee got on the end of a number of searching through balls, and though nothing was clicking just yet, they were getting the pressure. The half would come to a close after Jackson Farmer directed a header on goal off of a late free-kick, the whistle blowing twice to send the teams into the break scoreless.
A change was made during halftime, as Nicholas Momotani entered the match. Almost instantly, his pace and ability to stay on the ball proved crucial for the Thunderbirds. The home team got the early pressure underway, playing with much more urgency and energy than they showed in the first.
However, Calgary’s brilliant counterattacks had been proving tricky to handle all day, and that was the case in the 59th minute. Off of a UBC chance that was turned aside by keeper Jake Ruschkowski, the Dinos came the other way, driving down the right flank before a cross was swung into the box. Meeting it at the peak was Derek Brust, heading it off the left post and into the back of the net. All of a sudden, the Thunderbirds found themselves trailing with 30 minutes to go.
UBC would find their response quickly. In the 62nd minute, Piraux delivered an arching cross into the box that was met by Riley Pang. Though the initial shot was stopped, Farmer was the first one to the rebound as he poked it home to equalize the match at one apiece.
But the Thunderbirds wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than a win. Logan Chung found the ball in his own half and decided to take matters into his own hand. Playing a pretty one-two that sent him through, the midfielder found a small gap outside of the box and let a low shot go. Crashing in off the right post, it put UBC up 2-1 in the 73rd, a crucial tally that gave them their first lead of the match.
Momotani’s impact might not have shown up on the stat sheet, but his pace and tenaciousness were causing the Dinos’ defense fits. He ran at them again in the 86th minute, dishing it off to Tristan Nkoghe who was hauled down in the box. Stepping up to take the penalty himself, a brilliant diving stop by Ruschkowski kept the Dinos in it.
Calgary would send everything forwards in the final few moments of the game, but the Thunderbirds hung on to a huge result, winning 2-1 after coming from behind. For a team that has struggled with closing out games, it was an emphatic win to send them into the Canada West Semifinals.
With this result, Calgary’s season comes to an end, while UBC heads to Calgary to take on Mount Royal in the Canada West Final Four, hosted by the Cougars. The dates are set for November 5th to 7th.