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Sixth seed shocks: Saint Mary’s wins AUS

Men’s soccer Tigers eliminated in semis

Ben Ur in his final AUS game. Photo by Vaughan Merchant, CBU

Saint Mary’s striker Elivir Gigolaj finished with four goals, scoring in the 20th, 33rd, 63rd and 65th minutes, as his team beat the UPEI Panthers 6 – 0 to win the AUS championship.

It is Saint Mary’s second straight banner and 13th ever. The Huskies entered the tournament as the sixth seed, winning three games in three days to take the crown.

Gigolaj missed his chance at a fifth when UPEI keeper Trevor White made a diving save on a penalty shot in the 35th minute. Derek Gaudet added the final two in the second half.

The Cape Breton weather flexed its muscles throughout this past weekend as the men played through it all: hail, sleet, snow, torrential rain and high winds.

Despite the weather, all six teams were prepared to earn the second AUS slot at the CIS championships in Victoria, B.C. Nov. 10-13. Top-seeded Cape Breton already clinched a spot for finishing first in the season standings.

SMU’s road to the finals led them past the hometown favourites, scoring two quick goals. Cape Breton found a way back into the game early in the second half through Shayne Hollis, but the Huskies were awarded a penalty shot soon after, which Ian Coke calmly put home. The Huskies would add one more late goal to win 4 – 1.

In the other semifinal, the Dalhousie Tigers had every reason to walk off the Cape Breton Health Recreation Complex with their heads held high, despite their 2 – 1 loss to the UPEI Panthers.

“We had a solid week of training and that hard work showed in the Moncton game,” said goaltender Ben Ur of their quarterfinal match. “The effort and determination was there in the UPEI game, but it’s unfortunate a poor five minutes of play cost us the game—but that’s soccer.”

With the wind at their backs, Dal struck early in the semifinal after some well-sustained pressure. Tyler Lewars headed a well-crossed ball across the box for Julian Perrotta to tap home nearly from the goal line. The Tigers did not capitalize on the weather advantage beyond the 1 – 0 advantage they earned though.

With the wind in UPEI’s favour in the second half, they quickly got two goals in the 53rd and 56th minutes from Marc Pineau and Andrew Hayes. The second resulted from a well-struck free kick just outside the 18-yard box.

The Tigers took some time to regroup, but once they did, UPEI was left to desperately defend. Dal threw everything they had at the Panthers goal but could not find the equalizer, although they were close.

“It ultimately came down to the high winds, as every game really was a tale of two halves,” said coach Pat Nearing. “We really should have capitalized more in the first half with a second or third goal. PEI came out and got two with the wind. The boys really battled hard though and still managed to create a couple chances without the wind but just couldn’t finish one.”

Lewars, Philip Parsons and Rylan Palmer-Dixon all scored for Dal in the first half against Moncton. The Tigers went on to win the quarterfinal 3 – 0.

Ur’s stellar play throughout the year earned him an AUS first team all-star award, while teammate Bezick Evraire took home the AUS Rookie of the Year title and a second team all-star honour Thursday evening at the league banquet. Fifth-year Wesley Hawley was also recognized, winning the second team all-star.

“Ben [Ur] has been great for us the past few seasons and this year was no different. We’re really hoping that he gets a fair chance at a CIS award,” said Nearing, “Wes [Hawley] had probably his best season in five years, filling in for Kerry Weymann at centre-back, and obviously Bezick [Evraire] fulfilled all his big expectations coming into the season by winning the AUS Rookie award.”

Aside from Ur, the Tigers are only expected to lose two other players, who have played out their five years of eligibility, Hawley and Nick Persichino.

Removing his black and gold jersey for the last time is something Ur won’t forget anytime soon.

“Hearing that final whistle was pretty devastating. Looking around at our team, standing in the snow, I couldn’t have asked for more of an effort from all the players and the coaching staff. I can’t think of a better group of players for my final year as a Dalhousie Tiger.”


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