Ali Baggott, Vikes Communications

The University of Victoria Vikes men’s soccer team thought they might sweep their home-opening weekend but a goal in added time by Thompson Rivers’ Josh Banton left the teams level at 3-3 on Sept. 8 at Centennial Stadium. The game wraps up the fifth game in eight days for the Vikes, as both teams now sit at 1-2-2 records in the Canada West.

The Vikes earned two goals from second-year striker Ian Whibley, while third year Jack Hill also got on the board. First-year Vike Will Adams set up both of Whibley’s goal, while Jas Lallylogged three saves in the game.

“Ian is one of our fittest players and has done extremely well this year,” said Vikes head coach Bruce Wilson on Whibley’s two-goal performance. “We are lucky to have him. His second goal probably should have been enough to get us through with three points but in the end we took a point and we have to realize we have played a lot of games in the last week. Regardless, the team held in there and we got the point.”

For the WolfPack veteran midfielder Mitchell Popadynetz earned two assists on goals by James Fraser and Thomas Lantmeeters. Banton was the final scorer of the game, as Thompson Rivers rallied back from a 2-1 Vikes lead that stood for nearly 65 minutes of the game.

“Mich is kind of the guy that our offence runs through,” described John Antulov, head coach of the WolfPack. “We need other players, not just Mitch, to really pick up that goal scoring. We need to find that attacking prowess in that offensive third. We haven’t been able to do that as much and we were a little disjointed today and hopefully we can fix up some of that moving forward.”

It was the tale of two halves as the Vikes dominated in possession for the first half starting with an opening goal in the eighth minute. Adams cut through midfield and sent a slicing through the WolfPack defence to find a racing Whibley. Whibley quickly cut the ball inside on his defender and drilled the ball low and hard past Thompson Rivers keeper Alex Ram for a 1-0 Vikes lead.

In the 20th minute, Matteo Ventura brought down a clear from the WolfPack and laid it off into space on the right side of the field. Hill looked to take a touch but instead quickly moved his feet around to get off a rifling shot high and past Ram from 30 yards out.

The WolfPack got on the board in the 31st on a well-worked passing play as a curling ball down the left side to Popadynetz allowed the reigning Canada West Player of the Year to draw out Lally and find an open James Fraser to cut the Vikes’ lead to one.

Moments after scoring, Thompson Rivers defender Banton unleashed a canon from 35 yards out but it rang off the post to keep the WolfPack from drawing equal. In the final minute of the opening half Ventura delivered a free kick in to the box that found the head of first-year Vike Logan Fisher.  Fisher’s header beat Ram but the play was called offside and it remained 2-1 for the Vikes at half time.

Following the break there was a momentum swing in favour of the visitors. The WolfPack had a few open looks at goal but Jan Pirretas and Popadynetz each blasted a shot wide. Thompson Rivers nearly equalized on an open run down the left side from Jason Staiger. The fifth-year striker blazed down the left side but his low shot was steered wide by the fully sprawled finger tips of Lally.

It was a sign of what was to come as the WolfPack found the back of the net in the 65th minute on a cross from Popadynetz that found the head of Lantmeeters. The six-foot-two midfielder was left unmarked at the top of the six-yard-box and was able to bring the game even at 2-2.

Whibley’s heroics brought the Vikes ahead again after a timely and much-needed counter attack. Xavier Araujo beat two WolfPack defenders on the left side of the field and his run lead to a loose ball being picked up by Adams. The first year calmly cut the ball back to his right foot to slide it wide to Whible,y who buried a low show for his second goal of the game and, ultimately, a 3-2 Vikes lead.

Thompson Rivers were able to squeeze out a point from the Vikes thanks to a goal in stoppage time. A left-side cross from Emmanuel Aniogbe was volleyed in to the Vikes cage by Banton to leave the game as a draw at 3-3.

“It was disappointing because the players worked so, so hard for the 90 minutes and we gave away a silly one away at the end,” added Wilson. “Full credit to Thompson Rivers, though, as they were pressuring us and they pushed on and pushed on and ended up getting the equalizer.”

1          2:         F
TRU:    1          2:         3
VIC:      2          1:         3

TRU: #8 Thomas Lantmeeters
VIC: #8 Jack Hill