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Late heroics from Nielson, Henman push TWolves to comeback over Heat

The University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves fought back from a 1-0 second half deficit to earn a thrilling 2-1 win over the UBC Okanagan Heat, Saturday, August 24th in Kelowna, BC.

One night after a hard-fought 2-1 battle in favour of the Heat, Steve Simonson’s Timberwolves knew they needed a better effort in the early going. They held up better than a night prior, but did fall behind in the 25th minute on a Sam McDonald goal off a corner kick.

The Heat, known around the conference for their commitment to defense, often played 11 men behind the ball for the remainder of the half. The Timberwolves were unable to generate much in the way of scoring chances, and needed some tremendous goalkeeping from Rob Goodey to keep the game close and end the first half with the home side up only a goal.

“It was a similar first half to last night, but this felt different,” said UNBC’s Michael Henman. We weren’t going to be happy with a tie, nevermind a loss, so we knew what we had to do going out there.”

Simonson made adjustments at halftime, substituting attacking players Michael Henman and Hussein Behery into the game, looking to spark his side’s offense. After an uneventful 25 minutes, the TWolves made two more substitutions and got the break they were looking for. Prince George native Alex Nielson came into the match alongside Kelowna product Gregor Smith and it was the veteran Nielson converting an in-tight opportunity to knot the game at 1-1. The goal was the first of Nielson’s university career.

“It felt awesome. A great feed from Mikey (Henman). I think I scored on my second touch, that is what the coaches were telling me,” said Nielson postgame. “It feels awesome, and credit to the boys for getting me there.”

14 minutes later, the Heat had an incredible opportunity when UNBC keeper Rob Goodey was caught out of his net and the ball in the box. Defender Luke Brbot was on the line to keep it out, and the ball went the other direction. Behery sent a long ball into the box that was popped over Heat keeper Nicholas Reitsma and to the head of Henman, who made no mistake depositing into the gaping cage.

“Hussein sent a great ball in, and it went way up in the air, so I just wanted to make sure I would direct it in,” said Henman after the game. “I was screaming it felt so good. This group of guys is so special, it felt amazing in that moment to do something for them.”

The Heat were now forced to press, and were nearly rewarded in the 90th minute. Aidan Tuck found himself on a run, sneaking it past a challenging Goodey. He put the ball on net, but veteran Jonah Smith was there to deny him on the goalline. UBCO would have two more corner kick opportunities, but the TWolves held their ground, completing the 2-1 comeback.

“The boys showed a ton of character. Yesterday was tough, and today we fought it out and got the result,” said Nielson. “It was a team win, so everyone was happy.”

With the victory, UNBC improves to 1-1-0 on the year, while the Heat fall to 1-1-0. The Timberwolves next games will be home opening weekend in Prince George against the visiting UFV Cascades on August 30th and September 1st.

“We are ready to go. We know UFV is good, and we won’t take them lightly,” said Henman. We know we are going to have a lot of support from our friends and family, and we are going to do our job.”

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