LANGLEY, British Columbia – With stoppage time waning and a tie with UNBC seemingly imminent, Trinity Western’s Jarvis Ambaka (Maragoli, Kenya) put his hand up to be the Spartans hero of the day. With a playoff berth on the line, the Spartans fifth-year striker, who was playing in his final regular season home game, raced down the right wing, beat his defender and slotted the game-winner to the far corner to give TWU a crucial 2-1 win over the Timberwolves Saturday at Rogers Field.
“I just saw Joel Waterman (Aldergrove, B.C.) with the ball and if he could play it behind the defenders, I was going to get there,” Ambaka said. “It was the 90th minute, so I knew if I missed the goal, we were done. That goal was playoffs. I was thinking about my team and Brayden (Gant, Maple Ridge, B.C.), my fellow senior, and our last home game, so I just had to put it in the net.”
With the win, the Spartans (5-3-2) clinched a playoff spot for the first time 2012 and capped a six-point weekend that saw TWU jump into a tie with Fraser Valley for second place in the Pacific Division.
The Spartans trailed UNBC (1-9) at halftime after a late Timberwolves goal from Conrad Rowlands. But, in the second half, TWU battled back with Mitchell Urzinger (Langley) scoring in the 41st minute to set up Ambaka’s late-game heroics.
“I don’t know how you write that script,” said Spartans coach Pat Rohla. “Last (home) game of the season, last (home) game of (Ambaka’s) career, last kick at the ball. It’s those types of moments that help programs grow. It’s difficult to really capture it in words, but the lift we get from something like that lasts a long time.”
TWU piled on the pressure in the second half, outshooting UNBC 18-4, and were eventually rewarded with a goal that sent Rogers Field into a frenzy.
The Spartans will now travel to play UBC and Victoria next Friday and Saturday to round out their regular season campaign. With the top two teams in each division hosting the quarter-finals, the Spartans are still in the mix to earn a home playoff date.
“The thing is, you don’t want to sneak into the playoffs,” Rohla said. “We wanted to control our own destiny by winning a game. But I have to give a ton of credit to UNBC. The way they were coached and the way they played, they were good. They have a good future. But, at the end of the day, we needed to get the three points and that’s what our guys did.”
The first half saw UNBC put together an impressive effort that, at times, had TWU on the ropes. The visitors, who outshot the Spartans 9-8 in the first 45 minutes, were eventually rewarded when Rowlands opened the scoring in the 44th minute. Matt Jubinville picked up the assist.
TWU goalie Andrew Hicks (Surrey, B.C.), who finished the game with five saves, stood out in the first half, as he made numerous saves, including a particularly impressive one in the 23rd minute. With a ton of traffic in the box, UNBC’s Francesco Bartolillo put a shot on net, but Hicks was able to make the catch.
Down by one entering the second half, the Spartans brought a renewed energy to the pitch and capitalized on an early chance when Urzinger scored in the 49th minute. Urzinger got on the end of a quick pass from Leighton Johnson (Calgary), who was subbed in after halftime, and buried his opportunity.
UNBC briefly appeared to take the lead in the 56th minute, when the Timberwolves scored off of a swift corner kick, but a foul had been called after UNBC contacted Hicks. Matthew Roxburgh (Surrey, B.C.) had a chance for a go-ahead goal after a steady pass from Leighton Johnson in the 59th minute, but it sailed just high. Urzinger also had a shot that went high in the 60th minute and a wide kick from Elijah Adekugbe (Calgary) in the 87th minute added to the list of almost-goals.
UNBC’s keeper Mitch Macfarlane was sharp throughout the game and, despite the loss, was solid in stopping seven out of nine shots on goal he faced.
However, with stoppage time ticking away, Ambaka came up with a goal that had the Spartan Faithful bursting from the stands.
Game Notes: The Spartans took both games from UNBC this weekend after winning 4-0 on Friday…Ambaka now leads the team with four goals…the last time the Spartans made the playoffs, they beat Calgary on penalty kicks in the Final Six, but then lost in overtime against Alberta in the semifinal.