Sudden death needed in Lab Cup final

Derek Montague
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Chairperson of soccer tournament calls it “the most exciting” men’s championship game ever.

Each year, something new and unexpected happens during the Labrador Cup. And this year’s indoor soccer tournament, held from May 27 to June 1 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, was an event for the record books.

In total, 31 teams participated throughout the week (14 female, 12 male and five in the masters category), the most in the 32-year history of the Lab Cup.

After more than five days of great soccer, the tournament was capped off by an intense men’s final, which required three overtime periods, two of which were sudden death.

At one end of the arena was Chiasson’s Dogs, mostly made up of players from Happy Valley-Goose Bay. At the other end was RMS Green, a squad from Labrador City.

Most of the RMS team played for Golder last year, which went on to win the 2013 Lab Cup.

RMS Green was also riding on high emotions during the tournament. The team was playing in memory of their friend Josh Hickey, who recently passed away in a tragic accident. Throughout the tournament they wore armbands baring Hickey’s initials.

The team from Labrador City got off to a fast start against the Dogs. Less than five minutes in, Seamus Bartlett scored the first goal of the game and RMS looked to be in control.

But Chiasson’s Dogs got better as the game wore on. Three minutes into the second period, Fadi Zelhof tied the game, and got the hometown crowd rising to their feet.

After the game was tied, one got the sense that the next goal would be enough to win the game. Both goaltenders, Glenn Freake of Chiasson’s and Aaron Pinksen of RMS, kept making incredible saves and showed no signs of letting up.

After 40 fast-paced minutes, which left the crowd both cheering and gasping, the men’s championship game was, fittingly, headed to overtime. The first 10 minutes were not sudden death, meaning the entire time would be played out, regardless of how many goals were scored.

Nobody was able to score during the first nine minutes and 50 seconds of overtime. But with less than 10 seconds remaining, an RMS Green forward put one last accurate strike on goal. The ball was heading towards the bottom right corner of the net, but Freake made an incredible diving punch save at the last moment, sending the game into sudden death, where the first team to score would win the Lab Cup.

During the awards ceremony, Lab Cup chairperson, Trevor Paine, called it “the most exciting” championship final he has ever witnessed during the 32-year history of the tournament. He also commended both teams for showing great sportsmanship and respect during the intense affair.

After one sudden death period failed to produce a winner, Seamus Bartlett of RMS Green headed a bouncing ball behind Glenn Freake to finish the game. Afterwards, the hero of the night was in ecstasy.

“It’s a big relief. Playing in front of a great group of guys like this is amazing, absolutely amazing,” said Bartlett.

“It’s hard to find words to explain it, an overtime win like that is one for the history books.”

RMS’ star goaltender, Aaron Pinksen, was thrilled to win the Cup for a second straight year, especially since his team was playing in memory of Josh Hickey.

“We've had the same core of guys that have let us win back-to-back cups now. We are all great buddies and that makes soccer fun,” said Pinksen.

“We also have one armband (with Hickey’s initials) that our captain Josh O'Reilly put around the cup that will stay there until we lose the cup.”

 

Physio North wins women’s title

Meanwhile, although there would be no overtime, the women’s championship game was also a dramatic affair.

Team Woodward, a team from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, had won the Lab Cup seven consecutive years. But their opponent from Labrador City, Physio North, was a newly assembled team of some of the best players in their region.

But early in the match, it looked as though Team Woodward would take the early lead. Less than two minutes in, during a scramble in the Physio North zone, a Woodward’s forward had a wide open net, but kicked the ball wide.

That play would turn out to be huge because, just a few minutes later, Physio North’s Brittany Rowe scored on a perfectly placed strike, to take a 1-0 lead.

Then, early in the second period, Lab Cup veteran Sarah Budgell was awarded a penalty kick. Budgell picked the top corner perfectly, giving Physio North a 2-0 lead.

At this point, the Labrador City squad could have had a bigger lead, but Team Woodward goalie Keira Eavis was sharp in goal.

As the clock began winding down, Team Woodward pushed harder for their first goal of the game. But terrific team defense from Physio North kept the shutout going.

With less than 40 seconds left, Jenny Boland scored one last goal for Physio North, who would go on to win the Lab Cup final 3-0, becoming the first team in eight years to win the Lab Cup other than Team Woodward.

After the game, Brittany Rowe, who scored the eventual game-winner, described how it feels to be a champion.

“It was amazing. That was my first goal of the tournament,” she said.

“It feels fabulous. We came here to win it, and we finished.”

For Sarah Budgell, who scored the team’s second goal on a penalty kick, the win was a long time coming. She won the Lab Cup in 2004, which was also her first year competing in the tournament. It was a relief for her to finally win it again 10 years later.

“This is the best feeling; it’s been a long time waiting to do this,” said Budgell.

“We put a team together this year that we knew could do it. We had a few injuries but we didn’t let it get us down. And we are so pumped right now.”

 

Master’s final requires shootout

The Master’s division is, arguably, the most feisty and hard-fought division in the Lab Cup. Many of the players have played with and against each other for many years and rivalries have developed over that time.

The Master’s final in 2014 came down between Chiasson’s Masters and RMS Masters/Wabush. Not surprisingly, it would turn out to be a competitive, tight and exciting match.

RMS was the better team during the first period, but the terrific goaltending of Tony Elliot kept Chiasson’s in the game.

In the second period, however, Larry Barry scored for Chiasson’s on their first shot on net, giving the team from Happy Valley-Goose Bay a 1-0 lead.

With less than eight minutes left, however, Gary Winter tied the game, sending Labrador City fans into a frenzy.

With 1:56 remaining on the clock, RMS would get an opportunity on a powerplay when Chiasson’s defender George Cabot, who plays a rough and tough style of game, took a two minute penalty.

Chiasson’s would survive the penalty, and 10 minutes of overtime would solve nothing. So, this game was going into a soccer shootout.

Unlike in outdoor soccer, the shootout participants would run the ball in from center and have six seconds to take a shot on goal.

There was no telling which team had the upper hand in the shootout. Both goalies, Tony Elliot and Mike Ryan, had played superbly in net all game long.

Each team selected three shooters each, but only Dave Winters of Chiasson’s ended up scoring. Tony Elliot, meanwhile, stopped all three RMS shooters, giving Chiasson’s the Masters’ championship.

“It was tough. They got a lot of good ball players,” said Elliot after the shootout.

“I was just thinking ‘don’t score on me.’”

Dave Winters gave both goaltenders a lot of credit after the shootout goal.

“Both goalies made some great saves,” said Winters.

“We played against that team for over 25 years and have a lot of respect for each other, but more importantly we still have fun playing.”

derek.montague@thelabradorian.ca

Geographic location: Happy Valley, Goose Bay

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