Eliminated from the playoffs, the University of Calgary Dinos men's soccer team hoped to play spoiler to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, but ultimately lost 2-1 in Saskatoon last Friday. Two days later they tied the University of Alberta Golden Bears 2-2 in Edmonton.
Despite the 2-1 setback against the Huskies, the Dinos showed poise and confidence in their play. The maturity of the squad was a common theme this season and it grew by leaps and bounds. According to head coach Andy Gibbs, the effort was outstanding for 85 minutes of the game. Their undoing ultimately came in a five minute stretch where they allowed diminutive U of S all-star Josh Northey to take over the game. Northey, a second-year Saskatoon native, scored the game's first goal and set up the eventual game winner in the waning moments of the first half. Forward Alex Hanne notched the lone marker for the soccersaurs.
"We played very well in Saskatoon," said Gibbs. "We allowed their best player to dominate us for five minutes. We need to be able to handle the other teams' star players, but otherwise the effort was outstanding."
The loss dropped the Dinos record to 2-8-3 heading into the season finale against the Golden Bears who, by virtue of their win against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, wrapped up the final playoff spot in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Canada West division. Playing for pride, the Dinos tied their final game of the season 2-2 and faced questionable officiating.
"It was one of the strangest games I have ever coached in at the university level," Gibbs said. "Both teams just wanted to play but the refs would not let them."
Precipitating these remarks was a bizarre match that saw two Calgary players, second-year Dorian Nobbee and third-year Tanmeet Singh, get hit with red cards. The Dinos found themselves down 2-0 early off an odd man rush and a penalty kick. Before the half was out, however, Hanne would breathe life back into the Dinos by depositing his second goal in as many games.
Play continued into injury time with the Dinos down a goal and two men. The season appeared ready to end on a down note until David Bird and Sean Makins offered some late game heroics.
Off a corner with virtually no time left, Bird sent a beautiful ball into the box that Makins converted to knot the match and end the game at 2-2. Calgary completed their 2008 campaign with a 2-8-4 record.
Next season should see continued improvement on the pitch for the Dinos, as they will return a more experienced and mature squad that played substantially better as the season wore on.
"[The maturity was evident because] the players kept the games closer as the season went on," said Gibbs. "Next year we need to do two things: one, we need to not let the opposition have the opportunity to take the game away and two, we need to cash in a higher percentage of our chances."