Kajan Thiruthanikasalam (Sports Writer, Colts Athletics)
SCARBOROUGH, ONT.- It took until the last game of the regular season but the Centennial Colts men's soccer team clinched a playoff berth.
The Colts needed at the very least a tie to clinch a berth in the OCAA postseason. To the delight of the home crowd, it did not matter as Centennial exploded offensively in a 4-0 shutout at AWC Colts Pitch (Progress) over the Seneca Sting.
With the win, Centennial finished the regular season with a 6-3-1 record and finished third in the OCAA East, as they lost the tiebreaker to the Durham Lords. Seneca finished the season with a 4-4-2 record and were officially eliminated from playoff contention after the loss.
Forward Tristan Wilson, midfielder Stephen Hwedieh, forward Liam Cox, and defender Kyle Cohall were the goal scorers for the Colts. Centennial goalkeeper Tristan Martino only had to make two saves to earn his fourth clean sheet of the season.
Centennial controlled the tempo of the game for the full 90 minutes and it showed on the stat sheet as they outshot Seneca, 26-8, and 12-2, in shots on goal.
"As long as we play the ball on the ground and play possession football, we're fine," Centennial head coach Julian Carr said. "That's where a lot of our goals come from."
Centennial broke through in the goal column in the 19th minute when Hwedieh sent a long ball to a streaking Wilson. To the crowd's astonishment, he immediately fired a rocket without stopping the ball and hit the top left corner of the net past a stunned Tayjon Campbell.
"(Tristan) did the exact same thing in preseason against the University of Montreal, which is the fifth ranked team in CIS," Carr said, unsurprisingly. "He has it in him; it's whether he can do it consistently."
In the 28th minute, the Colts added to their lead as a long pass went through to a running and wide open Hwedieh, who made no mistake in chipping the ball into the vacant net past a charging Campbell.
Cox had two glorious chances in the 35th minute to extend the Colts' lead with a low strike and the ensuing header but Campbell stopped him cold on the initial shot and a Sting defender headed the ball away at the goalline.
Cox finally broke through to start the second half in the 47th minute on a partial breakaway as he went top right past Campbell to extend the Colts' lead to three.
Things got chippy in the 63rd minute as Sting midfielder Peter Papadopoulos chirped away at the referee and received a yellow card. In the 65th minute, midfielder Tajmir Ashraq was taken down in the box and had a glorious chance to put Seneca on the board. However, Martino stopped yet another penalty shot (his third of the season) but the ensuing rebound was put into the net by a Sting player.
However, the goal was waved off after it was ruled that the Sting player who scored committed encroachment (ran towards the net before the penalty kick occurred). That drew the ire of the Sting players and coaching staff as Campbell was booked for a yellow card while Seneca's head coach was tossed out of the game.
"It felt really good," Carr said about his team's composure in that sequence. "The boys kept their heads; every time we've faced adversity, we've kept our composure and it serves us well."
When asked about Martino's success at stopping penalty kicks, the Colts head coach smiled, saying, "It's his house and he owns it."
Ashraq had another chance in the 86th minute to get Seneca on the board but Martino punched the ball out of harm's way, preserving the shutout.
The icing on the cake was in the 89th minute when substitute Cohall received a long pass from defender Rodion Matveev and fired a low strike past a diving Campbell. For Cohall, it was his first touch, shot, and goal of the season and the crowd went berserk, as he was mobbed by fans.
Centennial now plays a crossover game against the Sheridan Bruins (OCAA Central) on the road on Sunday Oct. 22 at 1:00 pm, to determine who plays in the OCAA Championships at Fleming College on Oct. 26. Carr says that his team needs to play to their strengths.
"We play our game," Carr said. "We match up well with Sheridan because our group has played some good football and has moved the ball nicely. If we do that, we'll be fine."