November 3, 2013, VANCOUVER (ISN) – Niall Cousens put on a show Sunday afternoon as the UBC Thunderbirds defeated the Saskatchewan Huskies 6-1 to win their second straight Canada West championship. Cousens collected four goals in a dominant performance as both teams secured a spot for the CIS men’s soccer championship next weekend in Fredericton.
“It was fantastic to step up in a game that matters,” said Cousens, the tall figure for the Thunderbirds. “The whole team was great in its performance as we came out flying.”
Milad Mehrabi and Mitchell Popadynetz added the other UBC goals while Luigi Bekwayo tallied for Saskatchewan.
It didn’t take long for the Thunderbirds to get the ball rolling as Cousens buried a loose rebound in the eighth minute off an initial free kick from Milad Mehrabi.
Cousens added another in the 16th minute to put the Thunderbirds up two early in the match. Some fancy footwork on the part of Navid Mashinchi followed by a chip into the penalty area set up the play perfectly for Cousens, who made no mistake putting it past Huskies ‘keeper Michal Bandula.
Saskatchewan showed resilience as the team cut the lead in half five minutes later as Luigi Bekwayo pounced on a rebound after a Jordian Farahani free kick found the far post. It was the first goal that the Thunderbirds had conceded in its previous five games, dating back to the regular season.
The Thunderbirds regained its two-goal advantage in the 28th minute as Cousens flicked a volley to himself spinning around a Huskies defender to complete a beautiful individual play for his hat trick marker. Harry Lakhan collected the assist on the play, his third of the day, after helping set up the previous two Thunderbirds goals.
Cousens was not done there as he collected his fourth of the game just minutes later heading in a Tyler Mertens cross to put the Thunderbirds up by three. With the goal, Cousens matched his entire season total with four markers.
Milad Mehrabi got in on the action in the 34th minute after getting a foot on a loose ball in the penalty area finding its way past several Huskies defenders beating Bandula putting the Thunderbirds up by four going into half time.
Capping off the scoring for the Thunderbirds was Popadynetz who, fresh onto the field as a substitute, found the far corner beating Bandula in the 68th minute securing the victory for UBC.
Otis Sandhu, who came in at halftime as a substitute, was assessed a red card in the 82nd minute putting the team shorthanded for the remainder of the game after committing an aggressive tackle. Huskies defender Carson MacDonald, who went down on the play was slow to get up but thankfully left the field with help from a couple of trainers.
Being down to ten men would not make a difference, however, as the Thunderbirds took home the 2013 Canada West banner for the third time in the last four years and 17th time in program history.
Thunderbirds head coach Mike Mosher not only praised Cousens play but the way his team came out strong early in the first-half.
“The first half was excellent, I thought Niall was really good on Friday and we challenged him to perform well again today,” said Mosher. “This type of performance was coming, he was always doing a lot of good things but had to extend himself more in the key areas where you score goals and today he did just that.”
Despite the loss, the Saskatchewan Huskies will vie for a national championship after securing a berth to the CIS championship for the first time in program history. Huskies head oach Bryce Chapman added that today’s performance was an outlier in terms of his team’s play.
“We have to pick ourselves up for Thursday,” said Chapman. “I don’t think we’ll do much different, today was just an anomaly, we’ve been a lot more disciplined in the past, a lot more battle ready and we’ll go back to what we’ve done well.”
O’Shea finished with three saves backstopping the Thunderbirds to the victory while Bandula finished the game with two for the Huskies. The start marked O’Shea’s first of the season after coming off an injury sustained early in the regular season. He was the starting goalie for the Thunderbirds last season during its CIS title run.
“Luke only found out shortly before the game that he was getting the start,” added Mosher. “It was no worry as he’s hungry and has a real desire and confidence to win.”
The University of New Brunswick will host the CIS men’s soccer championship Nov. 7-10 in Fredericton. UBC begins its title defence Nov. 7 against the Montreal Carabins.
CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (ATLANTIC TIME)
Wednesday, Nov. 6
- 17:30 Meet the Teams Media Conference (Fredericton Inn)
- 18:30 All-Canadian Awards Gala (Fredericton Inn)
Thursday, Nov. 7
- 11:00 Quarter-final 1: York vs. Saint Mary’s
- 13:30 Quarter-final 2: UBC vs. Montreal
- 16:00 Quarter-final 3: Laval vs. Ryerson
- 18:30 Quarter-final 4: UNB vs. Saskatchewan
Friday, Nov. 8
- 11:00 Consolation 1: Loser QF 1 vs. Loser QF 2
- 13:30 Consolation 2: Loser QF 3 vs. Loser QF 4
- 16:00 Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2
- 18:30 Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4
Saturday, Nov. 9
- 14:30 5th-place game
Sunday, Nov. 10
- 11:00 Bronze medal
- 14:00 Championship final