Zach Conard/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The Thompson Rivers WolfPack continue to make history in 2017.
TRU defeated the Alberta Golden Bears 2-0 Saturday at Ken Woods Field in Vancouver to win the bronze medal at the Canada West men's soccer Final Four.
The 'Pack are in the midst of their first-ever postseason appearance as members of the Canada West. Their journey will continue next week, when they host the 2017 U SPORTS Respect Group Men's Soccer Championship.
"It's massive for us from a confidence standpoint. The guys were a little down yesterday, but you know they really responded fantastically," said TRU head coach John Antulov. "We didn't dress four or five of our starters and we didn't play a couple other guys. The kids that came in played absolutely fantastic so it bodes well for us going forward."
The WolfPack took the lead early on in the match with a goal from Anatoli Leveille. During the eighth minute, Canada West Player of the Year Mitchell Popadynetz worked his way through the Golden Bears' defence before ripping off a shot that snuck under Connor James.
With the ball trickling towards net, 16-year-old Leveille - the youngest player in U SPORTS – was able to clean up and get the tap-in goal to make it 1-0 TRU.
Throughout the first half, the Golden Bears struggled to find an answer to the WolfPack offence.
James Fraser added to the score line after tapping in a heavy shot by teammate Koffi Nyavor. The brace increased the WolfPack's lead to 2-0. The players combined for nine of TRU's 15 shots.
At the start of the second half it seemed as if the Alberta offence had finally awoken as the game began to open up.
Sebastian Crema and Bruno Zebie lead the charge at the WolfPack backline, but couldn't break down the stingy defence.
Crema had one of the two shots on goal for the Golden Bears.
While possession became equal for both teams in the second half neither could find the back of the net.
"I thought we struggled to match the intensity that Thompson Rivers brought to the table today. We kind of knew they'd come out and be really hungry for that medal as they were heading into nationals next week," Alberta assistant coach Cam Leverman said. "Heading into the Final Four we felt quite confident in our play, but for us, a program like us, anything less than being in a gold-medal match in the Final Four is kind of disappointing."
The two-goal lead was all the WolfPack needed to capture the bronze medal before the start of next weekend's national tournament.
Alberta's season ends after the team posted a 9-1-4 record in Canada West play, before defeating Northern BC 3-0 in a quarter-final contest to earn a trip to the Canada West Final Four. On Friday, the Golden Bears then dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 extra-time semifinal to Trinity Western.
PHOTO: Wilson Wong/UBC Thunderbirds