OTTAWA, ON – If there is ever a game that could be difficult to get invested in at a national championship, it would be the consolation semifinal.
The consolation semifinal asks two teams who less than 24 hours prior lost a chance at a national medal to play essentially for pride. For both the Victoria Vikes and the Saint Mary’s Huskies, though, despite suffering disappointing quarterfinal losses on Thursday, each still had something left to prove on the pitch in Ottawa on Friday afternoon. By the end of the afternoon, they provided 90 minutes of football that might have been without huge stakes but was not without intrigue.
Early on, it was clear the Victoria Vikes were carrying motivation from their heartbreaking penalty kick loss to Montreal. Isaac Koch, who scored for the Vikes in the 55th minute of their quarterfinal matchup, was on a mission to start the game. A pair of chances in the first ten minutes just missed the goal beyond Saint Mary’s keeper Ryan Davis. How they found that motivation so quickly after falling in the quarterfinals was clear for the Vikes.
“It’s win together lose together, we let ourselves kind of mope around for about an hour and a half last night… but it’s a quick tournament, it goes by fast, so we want to make sure we enjoy it, and we’re living in the moment, so we don’t want to think about yesterday we’re moving forward.” captain Evan Ripke said.
“If we’d went back to the hotel and spent the last 24 hours just upset about everything, then that seeps into the team,” Isaac Koch said
It was the Huskies, though, that struck first. After being shut out by Svyatoslav Artemenko in their 2-0 loss on Thursday, defender Adam Dunsworth found himself up in the play, and his strike found the back of the net behind Jared Perras. Perras got the start in place of Harjot Niijar, who played in the quarterfinal for the Vikes.
Fifteen minutes later, though, Isaac Koch would finally find his goal coming in on the run and tucking the ball past Ryan Davis to tie the game at 1-1.
1-1 is how it held to half-time, but as the final forty-five minutes kicked off, the Victoria Vikes were in control. Just five minutes into the second half, none other than Isaac Koch found himself behind a pair of Huskies defenders, where he promptly deposited his third of the tournament to give Victoria a 2-1 lead.
As the match neared the final ten minutes, it looked like the Victoria Vikes could cruise their way to another game this weekend. Instead, in shades of conceding in the 80th minute yesterday vs Montreal, Huskies sub Sean Freeman beat Perras to a bouncing ball and muscled it past him the 85th minute to tie the game and send the Vikes to another game that needed to be solved beyond 90 minutes.
With no extra time in the consolation bracket, that meant the Victoria Vikes headed to a penalty kick shootout for the second consecutive day. A pair of solid saves from Jared Parres put Victoria in a spot where Rees Goertzen had the opportunity to win. The third-year Victoria, BC native, made no mistake, slotting the ball home past Ryan Davis and sending the Vikes into day three of the national championship.
With the loss, the Huskies season comes to a close. They may not have ended the year with national hardware but still end 2021 with an AUS silver medal after upsetting the St FX X-Men to reach the provincial final. “We’ve come a long way from Saint Mary’s in first year we used to be dead-last, so to be at nationals is a great achievement,” fourth-year Sumit Malik said.
The Vikes move on to play the winner of the Laval Rouge et Or and the UBC Thunderbirds in the fifth-place game on Saturday morning. Their first Canada West final appearance since 2015 provided them with a silver medal and an appearance at the U SPORTS national championship. Now they got a chance to finish fifth in the country after entering the Canada West season ranked eighth in their conference.
They may have been on opposing sides, but as many players get set to move on, Saint Mary’s Alex Black summed up best the mentality of the consolation semifinal for the Huskies, but in a way, the veterans on the Victoria Vikes can undoubtedly relate to.
“We’ve been through the trenches from the bottom of our table up to nationals; it’s been a good ride for us.”
COVER PHOTO: APShutter.com/Victoria Vikes Athletics