The UNB Saint John Seawolves traveled to the capital of Nova Scotia for the 2016 ACAA Championships last Saturday to take on the University of Kings College’s (UKC) Blue Devils, a team who had already beat the Seawolves in both of their meetings ahead of the playoff match-up.
Saint John started off the game aggressively controlling possession and pushing the UKC defense back into their own end.
Seawolves’ striker, Mackenzie Tamblyn, had a promising chance early in the half taking a hard shot which winded the UKC goal keeper.
While both teams were evenly matched throughout the first half, it was the Seawolves who were showing much more effort, often first to the ball and closing the distance to the attackers while defending.
All it took was a corner kick and lucky positioning to overcome the Seawolves’ momentum, as UKC’s Rookie of the Year, Jack Creaser, headed in a corner kick from teammate Christian Sacco to bring them a 1 – 0 lead.
The Seawolves pushed hard and as the Blue Devils attempted to regroup from a scramble in their own end, UNB Saint John midfielder Killian Okechukwu stole the ball in the 18-yard box and delivered a shot off the crossbar, which then bounced to Tamblyn who grazed the right post to end the half.
Despite being frustrated coming in off the field the Seawolves came back on the attack in the second half with forward Tyler Williams bombarding the UKC keeper, Lore Maagard-Romano, with two consecutive laser beam shots.
The second shot rebound found its way to teammate Shawn Tinodaishe who narrowly missed the side of the net.
The Seawolves continued to push with Tinodaishe able to regain possession following a goal kick, resulting in a solid pass to Mackenzie Tamblyn who narrowly missed the net.
In efforts to jumpstart the offense with 25 minutes remaining in the game, Seawolves coaching staff turned to James Sudul replacing the frustrated Tyler Williams who had been stymied by a very quick UKC defence.
The substitution was not enough and soon after, UKC’s James Whiteman blew past numerous defenders and followed through with an exceptional pass to his striker partner, Creaser, who buried in his second goal of the game.
With the lead now pushed to two, the Seawolves now faced an uphill battle. UKC did not sit back and forced Seawolves defenseman, Alex Dolan, to make a breathtaking slide-tackle knocking the ball away from an attacker to prevent what would have been a sure goal.
The Seawolves managed to come back and pen the Blue Devils in their zone until Creaser got a hold of the ball, carried it up-field and chipped a pass to wide open teammate Whiteman to dash any hopes of a championship title for the wolves.
As if a three goal deficit with only five minutes remaining wasn’t bad enough for UNB Saint John, PJ Ward suffered a separated shoulder during a play in the offensive zone.
After popping his shoulder back into the socket, Ward showed substantial leadership and dedication by returning to the field with a only few minutes remaining to finish the season with his squad.
The final score of the game was 3 – 0 for the University of King’s College.
“It’s disappointing to finish the way we did. The boys played hard, we didn’t capitalize on our chances, that’s the way it goes,” said Seawolves head coach David Vincente following his team’s loss.
The UKC Blue Devils shutout the Wolves’ pair of all-star strikers, and their head coach, Christopher “CJ” Young says there was no special plan in place to do that.
“We played (UNB) three times this year, and they didn’t score on us once. I wouldn’t say there was a special plan, we just played our game, defensively we were strong and we kept the ball,” says coach Young.
It was a tough game for Bruce Savoie in net for the Seawolves, who was unable to stop the shots on goal in the second half which would have required nearly impossible saves.
Prior the game, Savoie received the 2016-2017 First Team All-Conference – Keeper of the Year award for the ACAA men’s division, deservingly so for bringing the team to the playoffs.
Savoie was also awarded the Bob Coe Award for leadership, sportsmanship, and enthusiasm, both on and off the field.
All-Star striker, Alex Allison, was quiet in the game, but finished the season third in the league in goals scored (8).
“We have had so many new guys come in,” says Allison hubly reflecting on the season. “Mackenzie Tamblyn who is a CCAA All-Canadians recipient, we also have Alex Dolan – a brand new player who got on the Second Team All-Conference, we have a fantastic team all the way through.”
The Seawolves finished the season tied in second place, winning 7 of their 12 regular season games and despite the disappointing finish showed a massive improvement on last year which saw the team miss the playoffs entirely.