Churchill Arms beats N.L. champions in opening game at UPEI
It was the perfect start for the P.E.I. champion Churchill Arms and for striker Michel Daoust-Wheatley in particular, as he netted both goals in a 2-0 victory over Holy Cross Kirby Group of Newfoundland and Labrador to open the BMO national senior soccer championships Wednesday at the UPEI turf field in Charlottetown.
Daoust-Wheatley struck in the 70th and 86th minutes of a pulsating match in which Holy Cross more than played their part.
Backed by a noisy contingent of supporters, Holy Cross should have been ahead at the halftime interval, and it was only a combination of some outstanding saves by Churchill Arms’ keeper Matt Lally and some wayward finishing that kept the score even at the half.
Twice Lally made crucial saves as Holy Cross created good scoring chances with outstanding approach play.
But the halftime break worked in the Islanders’ favour and they looked far more business-like at the start of the second half, with Matt Thompson having a header scrambled away and Ryan Anstey sending an acrobatic effort fizzing over the crossbar within the first 15 minutes.
It was Anstey — who knows the UPEI field better than anyone following his outstanding varsity career with the Panthers – who provided the spark in the 70th minute, breaking free of the Holy Cross back-line before dribbling past the goalkeeper and setting up a comfortable finish for Daoust-Wheatley.
It brought a big crowd to life on a cool night, and Daoust-Wheatley nearly added a second a few minutes later, ringing a shot off the goalpost.
A late red card looked as if it might create some anxious few minutes for Churchill Arms.
But it was Anstey again, with another flick, who set-up Daoust-Wheatley with a one-on-one with the goalkeeper which he coolly finished to secure a hard-earned three points for the Island team in their quest for the Challenge Trophy.
After the game Daoust-Wheatley played down his achievements, acknowledging Anstey for his part in the goals.
“My part was easy, it was Ryan who did all the hard work,” said Daoust-Wheatley. “We played really well in the second half, and it was a great team effort.”
Veteran coach John Diamond was delighted with the win, but admitted his team owed a debt of thanks to goalkeeper Lally for keeping them in the game.
“Matt came up big for us tonight, and he allowed us to get back into the game and re-settle after the break,” Diamond said. “The whole team though was fantastic, and it sets us up nicely for a real battle with Nova Scotia.”
Churchill Arms’ next game is today at 7.30 p.m. at the UPEI turf field against Halifax Dunbrack City Mazda.
In other action on Wednesday, it was:
Nova Scotia 2 Quebec 0
Halifax Dunbrack City Mazda gave its Challenge Trophy tournament chances a real boost with a fine 2-0 win over 2009 silver medallist Royal Sélect de Beauport.
The Nova Scotia champions scored once in each half with goals from Jonathan Cordoba and Ryan Devereaux. The result meant that both the No. 1 and 2 in the men’s competition were defeated on day one.
Quebec will look to bounce back today when it meets the P.E.I. Selects/
Hunter’s Ale House team at 2.30 p.m. at UPEI.
Saskatchewan 1 Manitoba 0
The Huskie United Alumni of Saskatchewan pulled off a strong victory to start their Challenge Trophy competition, recording a 1-0 win over the top-seeded Lucania FC of Winnipeg on the UPEI turf field
The game’s only goal came with less than 15 minutes to go when David Patterson finished a fine attacking move with a first-time shot from just outside the six-yard box.
Up to that point, Lucania had been pressuring strongly, and the last 15 minutes saw some resolute defending by Saskatchewan.
In the last minute, a Lucania free-kick hit the top of the crossbar and sailed away to safety, preserving a precious three points for the Saskatchewan champions.
Saskatchewan will look to add to its points total today when it meets the Calgary Dinosaurs at 9.30 a.m., while the Manitoba champions will meet AEK London of Ontario at 12 p.m. Both games are at UPEI.
B.C. 2 Alberta 0
Gorge FC, the British Columbia champion from Victoria, made an emphatic start to their Challenge Trophy campaign with a 2-0 win over Alberta’s representatives, the Calgary Dinosaurs, in the tournament’s first game played on the UPEI turf.
Under bright blue skies and with a vocal contingent of travelling supporters, the Alberta champions took the lead after 10 minutes from a headed goal by Jamie Merriman.
Controlling the play for long periods, Gorge added to their lead with finely-taken goal by Kellen Holden after 68 minutes.
Gorge is off today while Calgary will look to rebound against Saskatchewan.