Story & Photos by Alex Rodgerson/ISN
With Nationals set to get underway in just under one week’s time this year’s host UBC Thunderbirds captured the Canada West conference title on Sunday afternoon, knocking off the Trinity Western Spartans by a final of 2-0. In front of a divided crowd at Thunderbird Stadium, UBC’s Victory Shumbusho would tally just five minutes in while Connor Guilherme would add the insurance marker for the Thunderbirds. In what was a physical affair between two rivals, the Canada West Championship would be a match between two clubs that move the ball extremely well.
UBC entered Sunday’s contest after blowing away Fraser Valley University while TWU’s win over Thompson Rivers would not only earn them a spot in Sunday’s final, but also a birth in the U SPORTS national championships that begin November 8th. For TWU it would be the first time since 2009 that they’ve qualified for the national championships, while the host Thunderbirds look to win it all on home turf for the first time since 1985.
The Spartans would suffer a scare early in the games opening minutes, after UBC’s Kristian Yli-Hietenan would collide with TWU keeper Sebastian Colyn. Colyn would stay down for a moment, but stay in the game. Under thirty seconds after the collision however, UBC’s quick strike offence would take effect as Victory Shumbusho would make a quick break down the right wing before firing a low shot that would beat Colyn. After putting up seven in their semi-final match against Fraser Valley, the Thunderbirds showed no signs of slowing down early in the Canada West final. TWU would suffer another tough break in the games sixth minute, after another collision near the top of the Spartans’ eighteen-yard box would force TWU’s Vaggeli Boucas to temporarily leave the game.
UBC would continue to pass the ball well before Yli-Hietenan would be once again involved in a collision with TWU keeper Colyn. This would upset the Spartans’ bench, who felt at this point in the game Yli-Hietenan had been taking liberties on their keeper. The Thunderbirds striker would receive a stern warning from the referee, but would avoid the yellow card. The Thunderbirds would add to their lead in the 29th minute after some hard work by Shumbusho would earn UBC’s second corner of the game. On the ensuing corner the ball would enter the goal mouth and deflect off several players before UBC’s Guilherme would fire a shot that would look to hit the wood work and stay out. However, the referee on the field would signal a goal, much to the shagrin of a protesting Spartans team.
The Thunderbirds momentum would begin to subside near half-time, with the game taking on a more balanced pace with both teams getting some good looks at the net. Tempers would continue to flare as UBC and TWU would also both look to establish a physical edge while staying on the legal side of play. As the two teams would approach injury-time in the first half, the Spartans would get their best chance at cutting into the Thunderbirds lead. After a nice set-up in front, Aidan Moore would get underneath the ball just a bit too much and send it over the net. Getting shots on target would prove to be a challenge for TWU all night, as UBC would take their two goal lead into half-time.
The second half would get underway with UBC ahead two-nil over the visiting Spartans, with the Thunderbirds continuing to put pressure on TWU keeper Sebastian Colyn. The Spartans would avoid some early danger before getting a rare opportunity of their own, which unfortunately for TWU would be deflected off the face of UBC’s Kerman Pannu and wide of the goal.
Kristian Yli-Hietenan would be subbed out in the 57th minute, with Caleb Clarke entering the game for the Thunderbirds. This would officially bring an end to the in-game rivalry between Yli-Hietenan and TWU keeper Colyn, but would allow some fresh legs on offence for the Thunderbirds. The emotion of the game would also rise in the games second half, after Spartans’ Joel Waterman would be tackled hard by UBC’s Connor Guilherme. Waterman would jump to his feet with several words for the T-Birds defender before the two would be separated.
The ensuing free kick would sail over the net, adding to the Spartans’ difficulty to manage on-target shots during Sunday’s conference championship game. UBC substitution Caleb Clarke would get a chance to get on the board in the 67th minute, after a turnover by the Spartans would lead to Thomas Gardner taking off down the right wing before finding Clarke at the side of the eighteen-yard box. Clarke would send the ball just wide, keeping the TWU deficit at two. The Spartans would come close again in the 82nd minute, but everytime a cross would arrive in the UBC box several Thunderbirds would converge on the TWU forwards giving them no time and space to work with.
UBC’s Kerman Pannu would be the most positively noticeable defender for the Thunderbirds, controlling play from the right defence position and quarter backing UBC’s offence up and down the field. With a calm and cool approach on defence, Pannu positions himself well and breaks down opposing attack with strong tackling and anticipation. The Spartans would get one last chance to break the shutout in the 88th minute, but some more strong defending from UBC would hold off TWU in the late-goings. The Thunderbirds would go defeat the Spartans by a final of 2-0, and now head into next weeks U SPORTS national championships as the Canada West Champs.
For UBC the T-Birds would be a step ahead of the Spartans all night long, making better reads and being more aggressive while defending. The first half would see many quality opportunities squandered by UBC, however on this day it would not cost them. Though the Thunderbirds would be unable to match their offensive output from the semi-finals, UBC controlled the play for the majority of Sunday’s contest while limiting TWU’s ability to generate any offence whatsoever.
For the Spartans, in the brief moments when they were able to get on offence some good UBC defending would force them to the outside, where the only option would be to attempt a cross into the box. This would be met by some even better UBC defending, as some big bodies including centre-defence Connor Guilherme would do a great job at clearing any danger in front of his keeper.
As mentioned both UBC and TWU will be a part of the U SPORTS national championships that get underway next week at Thunderbird Stadium, with the other teams being the York Lions and defending champion Cape Breton Capers. For the York Lions it will be their first appearance at nationals in three years, coming off an undefeated season that saw them go 13-0-3. Cape Breton is also coming off an undefeated season, on route to capturing their third AUS title in the last six years.
ISN Scouting Report
UBC Thunderbirds – Victory Shumbusho
Controls the flow of play with high-skill and great decision making, very strong on the ball and a good finisher.
TWU Spartans – Sebastian Colyn
Could have been a much worse outcome if not for the aggressive netminding of the Spartans keeper. Makes great reads and takes away space from attacking forwards.