KAMLOOPS, BC – When the match official pulled out the red card for Marco Favaro following a rough challenge on Daniel Kaiser, it seemed hope might have been lost for the TRU Wolfpack’s U SPORTS National Championship dreams.
Yet, the Wolfpack held on and forced extra time, where the two sides played to a 1-1 draw, bringing the match to penalties. In their third straight penalty shootout at the U SPORTS tournament, the Wolfpack downed UBC in seven rounds to claim their first-ever U SPORTS Men’s Soccer gold medal.
The Wolfpack became the first team since the 2015 York Lions to win the men’s soccer championship as hosts, and they did so without making it past the Canada West quarter-final, where they fell to the Calgary Dinos.
And, of course, they did with some swagger, with goalkeeper Jackosn Gardner mocking a Thunderbird and doing the Macarena to keep the spirit light through the penalty kicks.
When Favaro got sent off, the UBC Thunderbirds had already controlled the play for much of the game, and playing with a man-up made it seem all but sure that they would walk away with a gold medal, especially with over 20 minutes remaining in the 90.
Yet as head coach Mike Mosher urged his Thunderbirds to attack and subbed out leading scorer Victory Shumbusho for dynamic attacker Asvin Chauhan, the Wolfpack held solid. TRU’s Gardner commanded his area through the final stages, handling every cross and shot that came his way.
The Wolfpack held on and forced extra time for their third straight match before deciding the game in penalties, just as they did in the quarter-final against the OUA Champion McMaster Maraduers and AUS Champion Cape Breton Capers.
It took 10 minutes of extra time for the Wolfpack to find the first breakthrough, as Jost Hausendorf picked up the ball in his half and sprinted down the pitch to sed a cross in for Alesandro Comita, who finished past UBC’s Peter Whyte, scoring the final’s lone goal.
While the over 2,500 fans in attendance at Hillside Stadium began to celebrate TRU’s title, the UBC Thunderbirds tied the match in the 115th minute. Former FC Edmonton midfielder Thomas Gardner sent a free kick in for fellow former CPLer Daniel Kaiser to flick on, and the attempt nestled into the netting behind TRU’s defence.
When the final whistle went, and the match came down to penalty kicks, there were little doubts that the Wolfpack would get the job done. They had solved the puzzle of being down a man for 50 minutes and had confidence 12 yards from goal.
It didn’t come easy for the Wolfpack after needing penalties and extra time through every match. Still, as Jackson Gardner frolics and dances, the TRU Wolfpack made history in snowy Kamloops, claiming their first-ever U SPORTS soccer banner.