The Mount Royal University Cougars can kiss goodbye their undefeated season.
The UNBC Timberwolves took care of that business, beating the Cougars 3-2 on a rainy night under the lights Friday at Masich Place Stadium to hand the visitors from Calgary their first loss after five straight wins to start the Canada West men’s soccer season.
Anthony Preston, the T-wolves’ homegrown sophomore midfielder, picked a great time to nail down his first goal of the season at the 69-minute mark and his game-winner was a beauty. He took a pass from Owen Stewart at his feet, deftly deked around Daniel Harrison and let rip a howitzer from 25 yards out high into the net.
“I’ve been playing a little more defensive this season and I do enjoy it back there but this game the coach thought maybe a more offensive look for me would benefit the team,” said the 19-year-old Preston.
“I had earlier chances in the game and when that what came I saw the defender coming out, so I figured if I faked the shot he might go for it and I just kind of swept the ball and when I looked up it was in the goal.”
For UNBC, knocking off the Prairie Division leaders has to rank as one of their biggest wins ever, and Preston did not disagree.
“This is right up there with the UBC win a couple of seasons ago, because they were 5-0 coming in and we definitely needed this win pushing for playoffs,” said Preston.
Goalie Rob Goodey had an outstanding night for UNBC. He was aggressive coming out to swallow loose balls and win 50-50 battles and paid the price late in the game when he got the worst of a high-speed collision with Andre Griffiths. But Goodey stayed in the game and was there to make a game-saving two-handed stop near the end of the game to deny Benedikt Mehl in injury time from 30 yards out.
“What a save,” said UNBC head coach Steve Simonson. “We were going to sub him out when he got into that collision but clearly he was OK because that was an unbelievable save to keep us at 3-2.”
The T-wolves scored first, an own-goal that skipped off the leg of Mount Royal defender Daniel Harrison. Jonah Smith pushed the ball ahead to Owen Stewart and his shot caught a piece of Harrison’s shin before it trickled into the net behind goalie David Schaefer. That came 30 minutes in.
The Cougars tied it six minutes later on a rebound tap-in. Dane Domie’s shot ricocheted off Goodey right to David Dudek.
Domie gave Mount Royal a 2-1 lead in the opening minute of the second half, zipping a low shot along the ground that rolled in just inside the post behind Goodey.
Stu Rowlands brought the T-wolves back to even terms at 56 minutes converting on a corner kick that was laid perfectly at his feet by Japanese import Kensho Ando. The T-wolves kept the pressure on and on a quick rush up the field Preston was denied by fifth-year defender Trevor MacPhee, whose sliding tackle saved a goal with Preston facing an open net. That came a few minutes before Preston launched his winner.
“It was a great game and they’re a good team, I can see why they were 5-0 coming in,” said Simonson. “We know we’ve got a good group and we showed character today because they went up 2-1 and that second goal rattled us a bit after the half. But we regrouped. Tactically it was a great game from both teams and it was a helluva chess match.”
Cougars head coach Ryan Gyaki didn’t like how it ended but from a fan’s perspective he said the game went beyond what the 500 or so spectators could have expected.
“We came back, then they came back, if you were a neutral fan that was probably one of the more entertaining games I’ve seen in U Sports,” Gyaki said. “It had a lot to it, it wasn’t dirty, it was a hard-fought game with good tackles, good tactics. I thought UNBC looked great out there and it was a tough one to swallow, would have loved to have a tie. “It was a great save from their ‘keeper.”
The win improved the T-wolves record to 3-3-1. They have the rest of the weekend off and will play next Saturday at Alberta. Mount Royal (5-1) plays this Sunday at Fraser Valley.