Health and Performance Hawks Steve Hobbs, left, goes up against Steers Insurance Curling Rangers Jon Baker during the start of the first round of playoffs in the mens soccer league at the Wellington Street Sports Complex Monday.
— Star photo by Geraldine Brophy
CORNER BROOK For a moment, nobody was sure exactly what to do.
After 90 minutes of soccer, the scoreboard still read 0-0 and any hope of something being settled in the Corner Brook Molson Senior Men’s Soccer League’s opening game of the playoff round robin between the Health and Performance Physiotherapy Hawks and Steers Insurance Curling Rangers seemed bleak.
Officials Robert Mitrovic, Dejan Dragnjevic and Mike Roche deliberated briefly before it was determined the game would continue with two full 15-minute overtime periods and then, if necessary, penalty shots to decide a winner.
The Rangers struck twice during the extra time, one from Quinton Gillingham in the 101st minute and the other from John Baker at the 115-minute mark, to walk away with the 2-0 lead.
“We weren’t sure what was going on, but we were ready to play,” Baker said. “Obviously it worked out for us.”
The Hawks are still alive and well in the quest for the championship, however. The league’s playoff format sees the top three teams from the regular season — the Hawks, Rangers and West Side Monarchs — battle in one round robin to determine seeding for the elimination playoff round. The bottom three teams — Clancy’s Pub, Sorrento Tactics FC and Under-18s — will also compete in a round robin with the victor advancing to the elimination round as the fourth seed.
“We want to win all of our games and keep moving through,” Baker said.
The advantage in being seeded in the one- or two-spot is the first game of the elimination round, contested between those top two teams, features an automatic berth into the championship game as the spoils.
“You get a nice little break and then you’ll be fresh for the final,” said Baker.
Of course, there exists an argument the round robin between the top three teams isn’t necessary and the regular season seedings should be used instead.
“Finishing first all year long meant absolutely nothing,” said Hawks’ Clarence Bennett.
That’s true on more than one level for the Hawks, who memorably went 21-0 last year, only to lose in the championship game to the Rangers. They failed to score a goal in that one too.
“You can’t expect to win when you’re not scoring goals,” Bennett said. “Seems like when the playoffs come around, we’re passing the ball around well in the back, we pass the ball around well in the middle, then we get up front and it breaks down a little bit.”
The Hawks are also suffering from a depleted roster, with several of their better players now away attending school. Still, nobody is counting them out.
“Now we know the work it’s going to take to win,” said Bennett, drawing positives from the loss.
As for the Rangers, they know they’ll likely see the Hawks again before it’s all said and done, but there are more obstacles in the path to greatness than that.
“You never know ... we’ll see how it goes,” said Baker. “We can’t underestimate the Monarchs either.”