It was a tale of two halves on Saturday as the two most recent Canadian university men’s soccer champions got together here to decide a lesser title. And it was the UBC Thunderbirds who dominated the second half and came out on top, defeating the York Lions 2-1 to finish in fifth place and take the consolation crown at the CIS national championship tournament.
UBC was making its fourth tournament appearance in five seasons, having won bronze last year, and gold in 2012 and 2013. Despite a heartbreaking extra-time loss on Thursday that meant they would not play for a medal here at Alumni Stadium, the Thunderbirds were determined to finish their year on a winning note.
And they did that, first blanking Acadia 3-0 on Friday, and then fighting back from an early deficit against York, the two-time-defending Canadian champs.
“It’s been a long couple of days,” UBC head coach Mike Mosher said. “But to win the last two games is certainly better than the alternative.”
Things didn’t look good for the Thunderbirds early on. They went down early on a goal by York’s Stefan Popovic in the 14th minute, and were unable to generate much offence or many shots against Lions goalkeeper Daniel Gosciniak.
That all changed in the second half. Mosher made a number of substitutions, inserting several first- and second-year players, among them keeper Colton Cook, and from then on it was pretty much all UBC.
“The first half was certainly a little bit lackluster, but the guys coming into the game brought in some good energy,” Mosher said. “It was more of a resemblance of the quality that we have within this team.”
The younger Thunderbirds used their speed and energy to pin the Lions in their end of the field, and it was all but inevitable that they would eventually break through. But it didn’t happen until the 77th minute, when Liam McManaman broke down the right side and passed in front to Luke Griffin, who finally solved Gosciniak and tied the score.
Both teams then traded scoring opportunities, with York’s Ryan Telfer coming closest, beating Cook, but not the crossbar, in the 86th minute.
Penalty kicks to decide the matter were looming, but in the 90th minute, Griffin sent a through ball to Ryan Arthur, whose first shot was tipped by Gosciniak. Arthur stayed with the ball, stepped around the keeper, and had an open net for the winning goal.
“This is huge for us,” Arthur said of the opportunity to win the last game of the season. “Last year at nationals, we played York in the semifinals, and lost, so this was a little bit of payback in a sense.”
York head coach Carmine Isacco was clearly not pleased with his team’s second-half performance.
“They brought a lot of energy,” he said of the Thunderbirds. “But we should have matched it. A lot of our starters didn’t play today, and a lot of guys had opportunities to come in and show themselves, and they did a bad job of it.”
Isacco was asked how the disappointing finish will inspire the Lions – who were also dethroned last week as OUA champions – to bounce back next season in an attempt to regain their lost titles.
“We should be hungry every year,” he said. “We need to be better, and we need to be more prepared. That falls upon me, but it falls upon everyone else as well.”
UBC: 0-2: 2
York: 1-0: 1
1 York Stefan Popovic (1), 13:14
1. UBC Luke Griffin (2), 76:04
2. UBC Ryan Arthur (1), 89:25
UBC: Jason Roberts (1 GA, 3 saves, 45:00, 0-0), Colton Cook (W 0 GA 2 saves 45:00)
York: Daniel Gosciniak (L 2 GA, 4 saves, 90:00, 0-2)
Shots: UBC 10, York 10
Shots on net: UBC 6, York 7
Corners: UBC 7, York 4
Offsides: UBC 1, York 2
Fouls: UBC 0, York 0
Yellow cards: York Pierre Grenier (19:11), UBC Manraj Bains (22:07), York Daniel Gogarty (90:00)
Red cards: None recorded
Players of the game:
YORK: Eddie Lay
UBC: Kerman Pannu
Thursday, Nov. 10
11:00 Quarter-final 1: Alberta def. York 2-0
13:30 Quarter-final 2: Cape Breton def. Toronto 1-0-OT
16:00 Quarter-final 3: UQAM def. UBC 3-2-OT
19:00 Quarter-final 4: Guelph def. Acadia 2-2 (PK)
Friday, Nov. 11
11:00 Consolation 1: York def. Toronto 4-1
13:30 Consolation 2: UBC def. Acadia 3-0
Saturday, Nov. 12
11:00 Semifinal 1: Alberta def. Cape Breton 2-1
13:30 Semifinal 2: UQAM def. Guelph 3-2
16:00 5th-place game: UBC def. York 2-1