KELOWNA, BC - Justin Donaldson's 5th goal of the season in the 15th minute was all Thompson Rivers would need on Thursday night in Kelowna as the UBC Okanagan men's soccer team fell 1-0 to the WolfPack at Nonis Field.
With the victory, the WolfPack are now (6-3-5) have clinched a playoff spot, and are now in second place in the Pacific Division on Saturday, while the (5-6-3) Heat have dropped three consecutive matches by a 1-0 score and will attempt to secure a playoff berth in the second half of the derby at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops.
Mitchell Popadynetz added to his league leading assist total (10) with a long pass to Justin Donladson that found him in stride streaking unmarked on the right side, from a tight angle Donaldson with his right foot took ashot that bounced intio and out of Mitch McCaw's arms and just crept over the goal line. It was Donaldson's fifth goal of the season.
While Lubomir Magdolen of the WolfPack was not busy making only two stops on bouncing shots, his counterpart Mitch McCaw had to make a couple of big saves.
McCaw was able to stop Mitch Popadynetz in tight in the first half, and made his best save of the night when James Fraser beat three Heat defenders and had a chance in tight before McCaw deflected the attempt out for a corner.
While the Heat didn't create much in the way of offense on Thursday night, Nikhil Reddy tried to make things happen on numerous occasions. In the first half, Reddy chipped a ball in for Corbin Beauchemin, but could not generate a shot on goal. Reddy would have been free in the second half as well on a header from Kyle Sears, but Sears was offside.
For Thompson Rivers, James Fraser was all over the pitch both offensively and defensively. Fraser created multiple opportunities in the second half from the left side, including skilled balls over the heads of the Heat defenders, and great ball possession to beat three defenders and have a chance that Mitch McCaw stopped.
The WolfPack held the majority of the chances throughout the course of the game, and caught the Heat defense a little off-guard at times in the first 45 minutes.
While the Heat seemed to shore up defensively in the second half, some highly skilled trickery gave the 'Pack multiple opportunities, which saw them end up with 12 shots towards target.
Celebration of graduating and senior players
Before the game, the Heat recognized their graduating players that played their final games at Nonis Field in a pre-game ceremony. Ryan Jerry, Darrell Plantz, and Mitch McCaw were all given a framed photo of them in action. While McCaw started in goal for the Heat, Jerry and Plantz were subbed in for the final 25 minutes.
Next Up (Playoff scenarios)
These two teams will meet again for their final matches of the regular season on Saturday at 2 p.m. PDT at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops. With the WolfPack already into the post-season, the pressure will rest on the shoulders of the Heat as they try to make their way to the playoffs.
A UBC Okanagan win or draw would place them in the post season unless the UVic Vikes were able to take four of six points off of UFV and TWU, while a UBCO loss would eliminate them from the playoffs regardless of Victoria's results. The Heat would fall behind UNBC and in winning percentage, a TRU win would place them in second, hosting a quarter-final match as Pacific Division second seed. The Vikes play UFV on Friday at 6 p.m. in Abbotsford, before facing the TWU Spartans at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday in Langley. UNBC is at home waiting for results.
~ Kyle Anderson, Heat athletics