Rob Goodey made nine saves and the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves held off the dangerous UBC Thunderbirds, earning a 0-0 draw on Sunday, September 29th in Prince George, B.C.
Just two days after the T-Birds scored twice in the second half to edge the TWolves, UNBC coach Steve Simonson changed his lineup for this matinee matchup with the top-seeded visitors. Regular starters Anthony Preston and Luke Brbot were suspended, so Mitch Linley and Aidan Way made their first starts of the season, while Simonson chose to start with leading scorers Owen Stewart and Stu Rowlands on the bench. Additionally, number one goalkeeper Rob Goodey was making his return to the UNBC net after missing three games with injury.
The TWolves responded to the challenge and looked to match the Thunderbirds step for step. Easier said than done, as the visitors applied pressure in the early going. Jordan Haynes and Kerman Pannu both had opportunities in the first twenty minutes, but Goodey was able to turn them aside.
UNBC did earn a pair of great opportunities in the first half, as Hussein Behery and Michael Henman both had good looks, but T-Birds keeper Jason Roberts was able to maintain the clean sheet. Shots favoured UBC 8-5 after a scoreless opening half.
“It’s part of playing for a good team. You see the best teams in the English Premier League, lots of goalies don’t have to make too many saves,” said Roberts. “When they’re called upon, they come up big. That’s what I try to do with our team.”
“They have a lot of really athletic players, and they keep the ball really well,” said Linley. “They have possession and they try to stretch us and break us down. We were resilient, though, so we are proud of that.”
In the second half, UBC hemmed the home side into their own third, earning corner kicks and free kicks that led to dangerous chances. One three minutes stretch, beginning in the 65th minute, saw the T-Birds attempt five corner kicks and a free kick from the top of the box, but Goodey was tremendous, making diving saves to keep the game even.
“He keeps it calm on the backline,” said Linley. “Today was my debut, and I was nervous. But, with him back there, I felt secure, and felt like I could play.”
UBC’s best opportunity came in the 79th minute as Haynes found the ball at his feet and hammered one on net that looked destined to break the tie, but Goodey again made a diving stop to preserve UNBC’s hopes.
“Everyone kept a calm head and knew they had a job to do on those corners and set pieces,” said Goodey. “We did really well. I think they only had one good chance off a set piece today, and they had close to twenty. That is a really good ratio, so we will take it and move forward.”
“It’s a positive we are getting into those spaces, first of all,” said Jackson Farmer. “Getting chances, getting corners. It is a little frustrating when you can’t put the ball in the net, when you get ten or fifteen corners, but you just have to try your hardest to put that thing in.”
They nearly responded, as Stu Rowlands went on a run in the 88th minute, before attempting to center the ball. It went off a UBC defender and came within inches of crossing the line, before being cleared out of harm’s way.
“They came to play. You could tell they wanted a result, as any team should,” said Farmer. “They were physical and they actually played a lot, which was nice to get on against. Those things made it a little difficult for us this weekend.”
When the final whistle sounded, shots on goal were 11-7 in favour of UBC, who held the vast majority of possession, though both sides had tremendous opportunities to get on the sheet. Roberts made seven saves, while Goodey turned away nine.
“Any team in our league will say a point against UBC is a point gained,” said Goodey, postgame. “Doesn’t matter who is it. It’s a shame we didn’t get more. A fantastic team effort today.”
With the draw, UBC’s record moves to 6-1-2, while the TWolves sit 4-5-2. The Thunderbirds will host the TRU WolfPack and UBCO Heat next weekend, while UNBC will visit the Trinity Western Spartans.