Health and Performance Physio Hawks' Colton Kennedy, centre, tries to line up a header while under pressure from Under-18s' Jake McIntyre, as Hawks' Cory Rideout looks on during men's soccer playoff action Wednesday night at Wellington Street Sports Complex.
— Star photo by Chris Quigley
CORNER BROOK After being first all year, the Health and Performance Physio Hawks are now the first team ousted from the Corner Brook Molson Men’s Soccer League’s four-team elimination playoff round.
The shorthanded Hawks — missing offensive catalysts like Nick Park, Brandon Ezekiel and Clarence Bennett — had no answer for an energetic Under-18s squad at Wellington Street Sports Complex Wednesday night, falling 3-0 in the true playoff opener. The Hawks were the third-seeded team, after stumbling through a re-seeding round robin among the top three regular season squads, while the Under-18s were fourth-seed via winning the round robin between the bottom three clubs.
Tuiri Lomond scored twice for the victors, with Ryan Dawe adding an insurance marker late in the game.
Tyler Kelloway recorded the clean sheet in goal.
“We knew going in we could win this game,” said Lomond. “We knew it was going to be a challenge, we knew it would probably be the hardest game of the year, but we pulled through.”
In that regard, Lomond admitted he and his teammates were a little taken aback at the decisiveness of the victory.
“We thought it would be a little closer,” he said. “But that was probably the best game we’ve played all year.”
Lomond said he was excited to score twice in such a crucial contest, counting it as one of his top performances personally as well, but he saved the most credit for Kelloway, who made several big stops for his side.
“He played amazing,” said Lomond. “He’s been getting better day after day, all year and, as you can see, he played great for us tonight.”
Despite owning the regular season, the Hawks faltered once September hit and their roster took a hit, with players leaving town for various reasons, academic or otherwise. The Under-18s, meanwhile, actually got stronger in the later stages of the season, especially with the return of Canada Games provincial team member Dawe.
It all added up to a rare early exit from the post-season for a team that’s competed for the championship the past few years.
“I can’t remember how old I was the last time we were out this early,” said Hawks’ Cory Rideout. “It’s a disappointment.”
Rideout still believes the Hawks had the personnel remaining to get the job done, but being thrust into a position where they had to play comeback soccer and deviate from their usual game plan left them a little rattled.
“We’re not used to coming from behind, we haven’t had to do that,” he said. “When, all of a sudden, you do and you don’t have your best team, I think panic set in for a few of us.
“Just our experience could have gotten us through, had we played the way we can,” he added. “We didn’t ... and I think it made us get a little bit quick-tempered with each other and that took us out of the game.”
With that said, Rideout was quick to point out the talent level of the Under-18s is legitimate — they deserved to win and they can still accomplish more.
“If they play like they played tonight, they’ve got a really good chance of beating any team in this league,” he said. “They’ve definitely got a good enough team to win this league, no doubt.”
The next step to that task for the Under-18s will be to knock off whichever team loses the first-seed versus second-seed match between the Steers Insurance Curling Rangers and West Side Monarchs, which takes place 7 p.m. Sunday.
Lomond said, predictably, he and his teammates don’t care which of those two clubs they wind up facing.
“They’re both beatable, just like us ... 11 on 11, right?,” he said. “I don’t know which team is better ... we’ll find out when they play, I guess.”