It wasn’t the game the UNB Varsity Reds wanted to be playing in on Friday.
After losing 2-1 in penalty kicks to the McMaster Marauders in the opening game of the CIS men’s soccer championship on Thursday in Charlottetown, the Varsity Reds were forced to play in Friday morning’s consolation game against the Alberta Golden Bears.
Despite knowing they can’t finish higher than fifth at this year’s tournament, UNB showed why they were one of the pre-tournament favourites and defeated Alberta 3-0.
“I’m proud of the boys,” said Pinsent after the game. “In those situations you aren’t sure how the guys are going to respond the next day. I let them lick their wounds for a bit last night and then we had a team meeting. There was a clear message from that meeting that the boys wanted to go for it and however many more games we have at nationals they wanted to make sure they were putting in their best performances and doing everything they could to get a [good] result.”
It was quite a physical first half, causing both sides to get frustrated with the officiating. Late in the half, the two sides got in a scrum at midfield but the officials were able to break things up. Each side was given a yellow card during the opening 45 minutes while Alberta was also given a red.
The Varsity Reds exploded for three goals in a rainy second half. In the 67th minute, Marcus Lees beat Alberta goalkeeper Myles Grunling in close to make it 1-0. In the 81st minute, Patrick Cormier scored to make it 2-0 and then Kenneth Van Aarle connected less than two minutes later to make it 3-0.
UNB outshot Alberta 8-7 in the match. Brandon Eagle got the start in net for the Varsity Reds and made two saves in the shutout victory.
There were some notable absences from the Varsity Reds lineup on Friday and there likely will be tomorrow as well. Steve Miller suffered a concussion Thursday while Oliver Jones injured his ankle and Matt Mountney aggravated his knee.
The absences gave UNB’s younger players a chance to shine — and shine they did.
“We’re really pleased [with our bench players] and I guess it speaks to the depth and to the quality of some of the young players we do have in that here they are, taking the stage at the national competition and doing well.
“It was good that we could use our bench today because the guys really laid it out there yesterday, so they were pretty tired. Being able to put some substitutes in, keeping the quality high and bringing some new energy to the field I think really helped us in the second half.”
The Varsity Reds will play their final game of the year Saturday morning at 11 a.m. when they face the loser of the other consolation game between the Montreal Carabins and Saskatchewan Huskies. The winner of the Saturday morning game will finish in fifth place.
Meanwhile, McMaster will face UQAM and UPEI will take on York in Friday’s semifinals. The gold and bronze medal games take place on Sunday in Charlottetown.