Wednesday, October 18th saw the Niagara College men's soccer program wrap up the 2017 regular season with a 2-1 home field victory over the visiting Redeemer Royals.
The Knights entered their final regular season matchup with second place in the OCAA West division already secured. However, with the victory, the team secured the top-seed of non OCAA division winning teams for the playoffs and OCAA Championship. The Knights finished the season with a record of 6-2-2, the first six win season in Niagara College men's soccer history.
"Our best players were our best players tonight and that's how it has to be if we want to succeed. Teamwork is great, but your best players need to deliver" said Niagara Knights men's soccer head coach Frank DeChellis. "We won in every part of the field and outworked the hardest working team in the league tonight."
Despite controlling and at times dominating the matchup, the Knights found themselves in an early hole, after the Royals' Jonathan Thiessen converted off a free kick in the 10th minute from just outside the 18-yard box. He bent the strike around the Knights' defensive wall in spectacular fashion to give his team the early lead.
The Knights responded almost immediately directing a barrage of shots towards the Royals goal. Jake Therrien (Welland), Niagara College's 2016-17 overall male rookie of the year, pulled the Knights even in the 24th minute, burying a header off the post and into the back of the net. The header was the end result of hard work and a great high cross by first year defender Anu Makinwa (Brampton).
The two teams entered halftime tied 1-1 on the scoreboard, but the stat sheet told a different story, as the Knights directed 18 shots towards the Royals goal, forcing Royals' starting keeper Noah Bouius to make eight first half saves. The Knights allowed just six shot attempts (2 on goal) in the opening half.
"Every nerve I have was frayed at the end of 90 minutes" continued DeChellis. "We needed that third goal so we could get winning points but we received no cooperation from Redeemer's keepers. They were spectacular."
An injury to Bouius forced the Royals to make a change in goal to open the second half. Matthew Carney entered the match, and the Royals goalkeeping play remained sensational.
The Knights peppered the Redeemer goal to the tune of 17 second half shot attempts, while forcing Carney to make 10 second half saves. The Knights did not allow a shot attempt in the second half.
The Knights finally broke through in the 70th minute when winger Connor Diacur (St. Catharines) buried his first career goal. The dynamic speedster typically plays the role of setup man in the Knights' offensive attack, but veteran standouts Jordi Amores (Niagara Falls) and Carlos Williams (St. Catharines) created the chance that led to Diacur's eventual game winner. It was the third time in two matches that the Amores, Williams, and Diacur trio have combined for a Knights goal.
"Our midfield was very involved tonight. That's how we like it and it's what our coach wants" said Amores. "It was getting frustrating because we created so many chances as a team but couldn't finish, but we just kept working at it until they finally cracked."
The win sees the Knights finish fourth overall in the OCAA behind only division winners Humber (Central), Algonquin (East) and Fanshawe (West). Niagara will now host the University of Toronto-Mississauga Eagles in an OCAA playoff crossover match on Sunday, October 22nd at 3:00pm at Youngs SportsPlex in Welland. The winner of the crossover with qualify for the OCAA Championship being hosted by Fleming College in Peterborough from October 26-28th.