Western keeper Haidar Al-Shaibani made a sensational save on Toronto defender Marc Hee-Chung, setting the stage for Martin Painter to win the game for the Mustangs.
Painter saw more scoring opportunities during the game than any other Mustang player, and he saw the penalty kick as an opportunity for redemption.
“It’s a bit of a relief. I should have put away about three during the game, so there is some redemption in putting [the Varsity Blues] away,” Painter said.
After calmly placing the ball in the back of the net, the Mustangs stormed the field, repeating as OUA champions.
“That’s the sign of a good team: we pushed all game and didn’t get our heads down — we let them have one good shot that our goalie had to save,” said Mustangs captain Jeff Russell. “It’s a good, satisfying feeling to know that our biggest game was our best game.”
The field conditions were poor, putting both teams at a disadvantage before the game even started. The officiating was fair both ways, and while the conditions made for plenty of falls, both teams played the ball hard and finished their tackles. Each squad earned a couple of yellow cards late in the match as emotions ran high.
As the game unfolded, it seemed like it was a matter of time before the Mustangs put Toronto away for good, but that time never came. The ‘Stangs failure to capitalize on their many chances left the door wide open for Toronto, but Western dominated every aspect of the game from every position on the field, holding its opponent to one scoring opportunity in regulation and extra time.
“I think we played a fairly dominating game — probably our best game of the year in terms of overall attacking and defending play,” said Western head coach Rock Basacco. “We created many chances, and we didn’t finish, but we had our chances to finish.”
According to Painter, Western deserved to win the game. “It would have been nicer to score a goal during the game, but we more or less outplayed them for 120 minutes, and it was a relief that justice was done because we deserved to win,” he said.
For Western captain Russell, a fifth-year player, there was more on the line than the OUA championship, as the Mustangs qualified for the national championship simply by reaching the OUA finals.
“Two years ago, on the same field, the same thing happened: we played a great game against them, back and forth, really exciting for our fans to see, and they beat us in a shootout,” Russell said. “We were undefeated that year, and we had fifth-year players walk off the field with their heads down. Our coach says it all the time: ‘Boys, today is time for payback’, and no joke, today was the day, and we did it.”
The Mustangs came into the game with injuries to a number of key players, and unfortunately will have to assess the health of those individuals before taking to the field this week at the national championships.
Basacco said that his players will spend the next few days healing before they make the trip to Montreal.
“We’ve got a couple of guys hobbling, but I think our first game is on Thursday, so we have time to get them rested and healed for that first game.” He said that his team looks forward to another challenge. “We’re in a pool with some other teams. We look forward to the challenge, and we’re certainly going to go there to try to win gold.”
After Sunday’s OUA championship win, the Mustangs will enter the national tournament with confidence.
Toronto coach John Vidovich was unavailable for comment following the game.
In order to reach Sunday’s final, the Mustangs had to defeat powerhouse Brock in the semi-final, which was also done in dramatic fashion with a thrilling 2-1 victory on Saturday afternoon.
Western travels to Montreal today to play for the national championship.