The Yukon men’s soccer team boarded Sunday’s charter flight home with a win in tow.
The team defeated the Northwest Territories 2-0 to avoid last place at the Canada Summer Games on Friday. Yukon finished 11th ahead of N.W.T. in 12th.
“The win was nice to get against N.W.T., it felt good to score a goal,” said Yukon captain Tristan Olynyk. “It was a good game. I think we did (coaches) Victor (Lavanderos) and Arnold (Hedstrom) proud to get a win.”
“First shutout at the Canada Games, being the younger goalie, it feels really good,” said Yukon goalkeeper Timber Schroff.
“There’s some pressure in those bigger games. You mess up, it’s not good.”
Yukon found the back of the N.W.T. net twice in the first half before a scoreless second.
Olynyk got the game-winner just seven minutes into play, knocking in a rebound from the N.W.T. goalie.
Yukon defenceman Michael Amirault scored in minute 20. The N.W.T. goalie won a foot race to a free ball at the top of the penalty area only to clear it to Amirault, who sent it screaming into the net.
“We finished positively and the kids were happy … We finished with a win, at least,” said Lavanderos, the team’s head coach.
Friday’s match was the fourth consecutive time the two territorial rivals faced off in the battle for not-last at the Canada Games in men’s soccer. Yukon won all four, also downing N.W.T. in 2009, 2005 and 2001.
Yukon also defeated N.W.T. to avert last at the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games in Kamloops, B.C.
Yukon fell into the bottom-placing match with a 5-1 loss to Saskatchewan on Thursday. Midfielder and striker Belgie Nunez-Zuniga scored Yukon’s first goal of the Games in minute 33 to make it 2-1.
The Yukon squad began the Games with a 7-0 to Ontario on August 12.
“When we played Ontario, the first half was just awesome,” said Schroff. “It was 1-0 at half time and we had two chances and almost scored.”
Ontario, who went on to take the bronze, scored three goals in the last three minutes of play. Earlier in the second half a pair of handballs gave Ontario penalty kicks, both of which they capitalized on.
Yukon then lost 2-0 to New Brunswick on August 13.
“It was super fun, a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Olynyk of the Games. “I just had a blast.”
“It was really good, I loved it,” added Schroff. “I’d definitely do it again, but I’m too old.”
Team Quebec took the gold with a 2-0 win over silver-winning B.C. on Saturday. Team Ontario captured the bronze with a 3-0 win over Newfoundland and Labrador.
Yukon suffered with injuries throughout the Games. Striker/midfielder Jono Runions was out with a concussion after receiving an elbow to the head against New Brunswick. Striker Axel Riemer was sidelined with a sprained ankle early on. Starting goalkeeper Dominic Korn was out from the start to a concussion suffered while competing at the U.S.A. Cup in Minnesota last month.
Other players missed matches or halfs due to less serious injuries as the Games went on.
“The injuries were tough, but we pulled through,” said Olynyk.
“I have four or five guys I’m really impressed with,” said Lavanderos. “They never give up, even with a small injury, still giving every game 100 per cent. Brendan Irish, Andrew Scoffin … they played every game, every minute. Every time they went to the ball it was 100 per cent.”
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