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Shorthanded Timberwolves eliminated after loss to Heat in Kelowna

Eventually, with the odds stacked against them, the UNBC Timberwolves ran out of magic.

Needing a victory against UBC Okanagan, the Timberwolves were forced to play much of the second half down a man due to injuries and substitution rules, and eventually fell 3-1 to the Heat on Sunday. With the defeat, the improbable run of the conference’s youngest team came to an end, just shy of a storybook playoff berth.

Early in the game, it was the Heat generating the first early chance, springing leading scorer Malachi Emerson on a run up the right side. The forward moved into the box and tested UNBC keeper Daniel Zadravec, who did well to make the difficult save and keep it scoreless.

UBCO continued to apply pressure to a Timberwolves backline playing without starting defenders Maarten Grombein and Koss Nystedt, who were both lost to injuries on Saturday afternoon.

Michael Henman nearly got the TWolves on the board in the 18th minute, beating his defending and looking to beat Ronan Woodroffe with a low shot, but the veteran goalkeeper did well to knock the shot away.

In the 25th minute, the Heat got on goal in a weird way, when a Jacobo Saenz Ramos shot hit the far post, bounced along the line, and then went off Zadravec and into the net to open the scoring for the home side.

But these TWolves don’t go away. In the 27th minute, captain Gregor Smih would earn a free kick just outside the Heat box, and it would be Prince George freshman Colin Stauffer stepping up to take it. Stauffer showed why his future is bright, bending a gorgeous kick around the wall and under the bar, knotting the game at 1-1.

After a pair of glorious chances from Gregor Smith and James Jordan late in the half, the referee would blow the whistle and send the game into half deadlocked at 1-1.

In the second half, Steve Simonson’s side was desperate for the go-ahead marker that would help them earn a trip to the Canada West playoffs. In the 63rd minute, a Julian Daduica throw-in found Henman in the box, who turned and fired from a golden location on the pitch. The ball awkwardly deflected off a Heat defender and downwards, as Henman and the entire Timberwolves team called for a handball in the box, to no avail.

The Timberwolves, playing without Isaac Tate and Gregor Smith, who were both out of the game with injuries, continued to press for their second goal of the match.

It was Zadravec, however, who kept the hopes alive in the 78th minute. Alex Sol would find himself unmarked at the top of the box, but Zadravec made a diving save, knocking the ball up and off the crossbar. From there, it landed at the feed of Matteo Bigattini, but his shot was blocked by a diving Zack Sidhu, who bravely turned it away.

In the 80th minute, and the Timberwolves playing a man down due to mounting injuries and substitution restrictions, UBCO found a way onto the sheet. With UNBC playing an offensive formation, it allowed for a counter-attack opportunity for Mark Perizzolo who beat Zadravec with a low shot inside the post to make it 2-1 for UBCO.

Still with ten men on the pitch for UNBC, the Heat added to their lead on another counter opportunity. Matteo Bigattini was sent in on a rush with a single defender back. He sent a soft pass back into the box, finding an unmarked Malachi Emerson who tapped it into the net to make it 3-1.

Eventually, the Timberwolves ran out of time, falling 3-1 to the Heat, and ending their chance at a Canada West playoff berth.

Zadravec made 10 saves in the defeat, giving him 99 on the season and setting a new Canada West single-season record.

The game marks the final appearance in the careers of Zadravec, Julian Daduica, Noah Ballinger, Gregor Smith, and Michael Henman.

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