It was the greatest comeback in UNBC soccer history. Down 3-0 with seven minutes remaining, the UNBC Timberwolves did not quit. Having controlled much of the play and earned the better chances, the TWolves came all the way back, stunning the UBC Thunderbirds and earning an incredible 3-3 draw, September 25 in Vancouver.
It didn’t take long for the Thunderbirds to open the scoring, as a scrambled play in the box found the foot of striker Sebastian Dzikowski. The big freshman was stopped on two shots in close by a sprawling Daniel Zadravec, but he wouldn’t be denied on his third attempt, poking it past the UNBC keeper to make it 1-0.
Fifteen minutes later, more from the Thunderbirds after some pressure from the Timberwolves as Bradley Richardson got a good piece of a shot that deflected off Zadravec and in, doubling the UBC advantage.
UNBC responded well to the deficit, turning up the intensity, and it nearly paid off. Dominic Parris was sent on a run and crossed it beautifully to the head of Abou Cisse who went back across the keeper, however his attempt caught the post and stayed out.
Good teams often get good luck, and that is exactly what happened in the 27th minute. An attempt from 25 yards out deflected off a UNBC defender directly to Nick Fussell who was wide open in the box. He had time and space and beat Zadravec to the low corner, making it a 3-0 game.
UNBC thought they had gotten on the sheet in the 38th minute. After more sustained pressure, Julian Daduica crossed it into Abou Cisse, whose header hit the crossbar behind UBC keeper Bennett McKay. It landed at the feet of Timberwolf striker Stu Rowlands, who tapped it in, only to see the linesperson had called him offside.
At halftime, UBC led 3-0, though the shots were just 9-7 in favour of the home side.
“It was a tough feeling, and a bit of a dark halftime, to be honest. But Steve (Simonson) came in there and got us to keep our heads up,” said UNBC’s Owen Stewart. “We really have a ton of belief in this group, and we were applying so much pressure to them. We just had to stick to what we do.”
Like one night prior, the Timberwolves came out inspired to start the second stanza. Hussein Behery made a great run, dribbling through a pair of T-Birds defenders in the 58th minute, but McKay came out to make a strong save.
Two minutes later, Kensho Ando intercepted a UBC clearing attempt, dribbled to the top of the box and hammered a ball labeled for the bottom corner. Until, of course, McKay made a diving save to his right to also turn away that attempt, as the TWolves’ dashed opportunities began to stack up.
“It’s been our motto and approach that Steve instilled in us this year. To always go forward and look for goals,” said Stewart . “We didn’t look at the score. We look to get goals for the full ninety, so we were ready to bomb on. Trying to put a tear in their backline.”
The chances kept coming, including a header opportunity from Connor Lewis and a good look from Cisse, but to no avail as the team’s struggles to finish off their scoring opportunities continued.
Finally, in the 84th minute, UNBC found some of the offence they had been working for. Ando intercepted another pass and slid it to Owen Stewart in the box. The Prince George product twisted and turned, finding time and space before beating McKay with a great shot top corner to get the TWolves on the board.
Ando and the Timberwolves kept coming, as the Japanese star found Connor Lewis with a cross that the big forward headed with pace and intent off the crossbar in the 87th minute. But seconds later, Stu Rowlands would squeak it to Stewart in tight, and he poked it by McKay to get the Timberwolves to within a single goal.
“We were going for a win at that point. Obviously felt good to see it go in, but we weren’t done,” said the Prince George midfielder. “I knew we were going to find a third. We all did.”
And find a third, they did. In the 91st minute, Ando sent a ball in to Lewis who corralled it and blasted it just under the crossbar for the first goal of his Canada West career. The Prince George native had been threatening all season long, so it was a just reward to see the mesh ripple behind McKay.
“That’s our team. We think anyone can score. It was Connor today,” said Stewart. “We believe in our guys. What a way to get your first, though. This is just the beginning for Connor. He is big and strong and skilled. He is going to pop off.”
When the final whistle sounded, the Timberwolves had come all the way back and earned a draw with the reigning Canada West champions.
They will look to ride the momentum into next week, when they play host to the UBC Okanagan Heat at Masich Place in Prince George.
“We actually feel like we ran out of time. We are going to fly at UBCO. We are going to play carefree, play our game, and go, go, go until the 90th minute.“