CORNER BROOK The playoff picture in the Corner Brook Molson Senior Men’s Soccer League got a whole lot clearer on Wednesday night.
Most importantly, the Whelan’s Gate Hawks defeated the Under-18s 3-0 in the late game at Wellington Street Sports Complex to earn the right to play the top-seeded Steers Insurance Curling Rangers on Monday with a berth in the championship game on the line.
Steve Hobbs, Matt Massie and Todd Warren all disturbed the mesh for the winning side.
Mike Normore recorded the clean sheet.
With the playoffs beginning at this time of year, all teams with university-aged players have taken a roster hit, but perhaps none as badly as the Under-18s and Hawks.
Under-18 player Brandon Ezekiel led the league this season with 17 goals, and isn’t playing in the post-season, nor is Hawks’ Nick Park, second during the season with 16 goals.
“Maybe it’s something we should be looking at at another time,” said Hawks veteran Brian Woolfrey. “To make sure everybody has equal opportunity to play the playoffs.”
Even with a sizeable dent in their typical lineup, Woolfrey said the Under-18s still provide a tough challenge and aren’t to be counted out just yet. The playoff format gives them another life, as they’ll play the Tactics FC on Monday.
“They run hard and they tried to take it to us early,” Woolfrey said. “We settled down, put some beautiful through balls in and every single player on our team got the opportunity to contribute.”
The Under-18s are supposed to be the youthful ones, but the Hawks employed a number of 16-year-old players to help offset the loss of other players.
“They were outstanding,” Woolfrey said. “They really stepped up for us when we were missing a few guys.”
Of course, now all eyes turn to Monday’s showdown against the Rangers, the latest chapter in the most significant senior soccer rivalry in the city.
“The big thing for us is to play disciplined ande make good use of our counterattack with speed,” said Woolfrey. “That should set us on a good course.”
The following is a recap of the early game on Wednesday:
Tactics 3, West Side Monarchs 2 (OT)
Joey Companion scored in overtime to lift the Tactics to an upset elimination of the Monarchs.
The Tactics had only won one game all year, coincidentally a 3-2 decision over the Monarchs, but hadn’t tasted victory since June 8.
None of that mattered Wednesday, as the team finally sported a full lineup and left the Monarchs stunned.
Glenn Colbourne and Adam Anderson also struck for the Tactics. Jeff Organ and Pat Fewer put up the Monarchs’ offence.
“All summer we were playing with 10 or 11 players and no subs and it’s hard to play like that,” said Tactics keeper Albert Specker. “We managed to get a full team out tonight and it showed.
“Getting Joey Companion back was a big help and gave us a lot more speed up front,” he added. “We were really missing guys like that, but when they’re in the lineup, we can hold our own with anybody.”
The key to controlling the Monarchs was to monitor Fewer at all times, according to Specker.
“He’s the king of their team, he’s a real strong player,” he said. “If you shut him down, you should do well and we did that in the first half. He got a nice goal in the second half to tie it up, but I think we kept on him pretty good other than that and that was the big difference.”
After a solid 2010 season where the Monarchs earned a top-three finish and looked to be a legitimate threat to the league title, they never really got rolling this year. They were winless in their first five games of the season, losing four of them, and only emerged with a victory five times in total.
“We had a bit of a different lineup and we didn’t really gel together, but there’s no excuses,” said Organ. “We played some hard games and we definitely had a lot of fun. We’ll be back at it next year.”
Despite the sting of defeat, Organ praised the Tactics for doing what had to be done.
“They’re a hard-working team,” he said. “They’re a great bunch of guys and they’ve had their up years and down years ... we wish them nothing but the best.”