EDMONTON – Trinity Western saw its national championship aspirations come to an end Saturday, as the Spartans men’s soccer team lost 1-0 in overtime to the host Alberta Golden Bears in the Canada West semifinal at Foote Field.
After holding the No. 2-ranked Bears to a scoreless tie through regulation time and the first overtime, Alberta broke through, with Ajay Khabra scoring the game-winner in the 111th minute of play.
With only the top two teams in the conference advancing to the CIS championship, the loss puts TWU on the outside of the national tournament looking in for the seventh straight year.
With the potential for penalties looming, Khabra ended those ideas when he got his head to a Niko Saler corner and beat TWU goalie Andrew Hicks (Surrey, B.C.).
The Spartans were step-for-step with the highly-touted Alberta side and had a number of quality chances, forcing Bears goalie Connor James to make seven saves over the course of the game, but TWU just couldn’t find the final touch.
Hicks was his usual stellar self, stopping 10 of the 11 shots he faced to keep the Spartans on even terms until late.
“I thought it took us a while to get going, but in the second half and the overtime we did well,” said Spartans coach Mike Shearon. “It was a heartbreaking way to lose, but the guys gave everything they had to get the victory.
“It was our best defensive performance all season and we just didn’t take our chances. Alberta are a very good team and we wish them all the best at nationals. We will pick our heads up tonight and fight for bronze tomorrow.”
The Spartans will now play Calgary in the Canada West bronze medal game Sunday at 10 a.m. (PT). This is the second year in a row TWU has played in the bronze medal game, with the Spartans losing 2-1 to Fraser Valley last year.
TWU hasn’t won a Canada West medal since capturing a silver medal in 2008. The Spartans have only ever won the bronze medal once, in 2004.
TWU, who finished the regular season with a 9-5-2 record before beating Mount Royal in the quarter-finals, pressed for a late equaliser, but came up empty.
Game Notes: TWU’s Elijah Adekugbe and Alberta’s Janko Vong were each shown yellow cards…last year, TWU lost to Victoria 2-1 in the Canada West semifinals.