The first Men’s semifinal game of the day began with a very irregular scenario.
After a shot on net was made to the right of BU keeper Dan Harrison’s, the ball ended up in the back of the net. BU contended that the ball had made its way in through a large hole in the netting on the side of the goal, so play was stopped while the referees discussed the matter and repaired the netting. After the pause in play the goal was ruled good and was awarded to RRC’s Alex Castro.
Play resumed and Red River took advantage of the long stoppage, keeping the ball in BU’s end and establishing the attack. Two minutes after play had resumed, the ball was sent from the corner to the front of BU’s net where RRC’s Cesar Carvalho scored an unmistakable shot past Harrison putting the Rebels up 2-0.
Nolan Melanson, the 2017 MCAC Most Valuable Player, answered for the Bobcats less that a minute later, jamming the ball home and getting his dejected teammates back into the game by cutting their deficit to 2-1. The goal was huge for BU, who were obviously frustrated by the opening minutes of the game and appeared to have drawn some very unlucky breaks.
From this point on the game was fast-paced and very competitive. Chances on one end resulted in odd-man rushes going the other way and both keepers were tested often. BU’s Harrison showed the Copa de la Paz crowd exactly why he was named to the 2017 All-Conference Team, playing with quiet confidence and never being caught out of position.
With nine minutes left in the first half, Melanson got a ball from the corner and once again made no mistake, kicking it home and tying the game at 2. Off the ball, Melanson was unassuming and tough to see. But when given the chance, he put one or two quality moves on his defenders and proved to be extremely potent.
Red River nearly answered back less than two minutes later when Castro and Abdelaziz Zerrouki connected for a near miss, both players making the play perfectly to beat Harrison but unable to hit the net.
At the 2:15 mark, Melanson made the play of the half when he received the ball near the mid court sideline and absolutely burnt his defender. He put two more touches on the ball before firing a bomb to the far top corner of RRC’s goal, putting his side up 3-2 and completing his first half, natural hat-trick.
Before the dust had settled from Melanson’s third and most impressive goal, BU’s Corbin Glufka scored from about 15 feet out putting BU up by a much more comfortable two goals. The half ended with Red River giving themselves some life, missing a very close chance from Carvalho but still down 4-2.
With 17:30 left in the second half, Harrison made a great save but the ball went off his hands, off his cross bar, and sat right in front of the goal line. Carvalho jumped on the chance and put the Rebels back within one. Two minutes later, Alex Castro pounded a shot through a crowd of bodies and tied the game at 4.
With 5:15 left, RRC’s keeper, Greg Walker, threw an overhand from his end in a straight line down the middle of the court and connected perfectly with the head of the 6’2 Cesar Carvalho. Carvalho was able to change the direction of the pass just enough to alter its direction and beat the outstretched hands of the keeper. After controlling the play for the greater part of the second half, RRC was now back ahead 5-4 and BU was forced to play aggressively. This soon resulted in a 2-on-1 rush by RRC’s Anderson Pereira and Carvalho, who just narrowly missed the net with a one-time attempt. Immediately after the rush, BU Head Coach, Jesse Roziere called a timeout to see if he could orchestrate a plan for BU to score with the remaining 2:30 to play.
When play resumed, BU was able to get Melanson a very close chance at tying it but when it proved unsuccessful, it felt as if that was BU’s last chance at tying the game. Ultimately it would be, as Brendan Adamo would put a header into the ground in front of BU’s net, the ball bounced and popped up to eye level with Zerrouki, who headed it past Harrison to make it 6-4.
Osian Edwards would score before time ran out for BU but the at the final whistle it was Red River College ahead 6-5, and moving on to Sunday’s final at 3:30 PM.
Brandon University’s Nolan Melanson and Red River College’s Cesar Carvalho were named Players of the Game.