FARIBAULT, MINN. -- It wasn’t the way Nolan Intermoia wanted his soccer career to end.
But end it did on Tuesday afternoon after the Thunder Bay Chill dropped their season finale 1-0 to the St. Louis Lions, a neutral-site game played at Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn.
It was supposed to be the Chill’s final home game of the season, but the Premier Development League revamped the schedule after the Chicago Inferno pulled out five games into the season, a compromise that saw both teams essentially meet in the middle.
Instead of the frenzy of the Chill’s raucous Blue Navy cheering them on, the Chill’s remarkable seven-year playoff run came to an end in front of a smattering of friends and family who made the six-and-a-half-hour trek south.
It hurts, said Intermoia, who watched the Lions’ Jai Maw sneak the ball past goalie Daniel Alvarado in the 87th minute, the lone goal of the back-and-forth contest.
“It’s very disappointing as a player, very disappointing as a person who’s been here when we’ve made the playoffs and know that feeling. Once you get there, anything can happen,” said Intermoia, who six summers ago helped the Chill bring home the ultimate prize at this level, a PDL championship.
The Chill found themselves in two more finals in the intervening years, but couldn’t capture the 2008 magic again, including a loss last summer to the host Austin Aztex in the championship game.
This season was different from the start.
The squad, beset by the loss of several stars, including goalie Stephen Paterson and defender Axel Sjoberg, never got it going, finishing a disappointing 6-7-1.
“It hurts,” Intermoia said. “It’s a letdown to the club, it’s a letdown to the community of Thunder Bay. It’s a reality check that we’re not invincible, that just because we have the Chill logo doesn’t mean we can’t (be beaten).
“We still have to come out and keep playing every single game. It’s very important and it shows.”
It wasn’t quite win or go home for the Chill, but it was close enough.
A win over the Lions would have secured a playoff berth for Thunder Bay, based on PDL tiebreakers. Instead it’s the Lions (5-3-4) who automatically move on, based on their 3-1 record this season against the Chill.
It wasn’t the finish striker Sullivan Silva, who has battled injuries the past two seasons, was looking for, though he did indicate that unlike Intermoia, he plans to be back in 2015.
“It’s just like my first year, when we lost a game in the playoffs. It’s a very bad feeling. But you’ve got to keep going and get ready for next season. Hopefully we’ll do better.”
It’s not that the Chill were without their chances, especially in the opening 45.
Victor Huvos, in the seventh, and Dominic Roberts in the 22nd minute, each had point-blank chances to score on Lions keeper Iain McTurk, but the shots were both turned aside with relative ease.
The Lions actually put the ball in the Chill net, but the play was ruled offside. They had another chance on a free kick early in the second half, but midfielder Jonny Brown booted over the crossbar. The Lions simply powered the Chill off the ball most any time they began to penetrate the St. Louis zone, Thunder Bay’s best chance coming in the 74th when an Intermoia header lifted just over the crossbar and out of harm’s way.
Chill coach Tony Colistro switched to a three-forward set with time running out, but couldn’t find the equalizer, which would have kept their slim playoff hopes alive, needing the Lions to either tie or lose their remaining two games.
“Obviously they were a stronger team, stronger than us,” said Colistro. “We showed signs of some opportunities, but we just weren’t strong as a whole.”
The Chill will play a friendly to wrap up their 2014 campaign on Thursday at Chapples Park.
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