THUNDER BAY – About all the Thunder Bay Chill had left to play for was pride – and a chance to dash their opponent’s slim playoff chances.
They got the job done on Wednesday night.
Evan Sawula and Jorge Guinovart scored first-half goals and the Chill went on to edge visiting Kaw Valley FC 2-1 in their season finale at Fort William Stadium, knocking the visiting side out of post-season contention.
It wasn’t the way Sawula had hoped to celebrate the end of the regular season, but given the circumstances and the Chill’s 6-7-1 record, he’ll take it.
“It’s good to get the win. Obviously the season didn’t go as planned, but we wanted to go out with a bang anyway,” said Sawula, who plans to return to Oakland University in the fall and then back to the Chill in 2019.
“These guys could still make the playoffs, so it’s good to play spoiler too. And some guys who didn’t get minutes during the regular season showed they could play.”
Guinovart said they wanted to go out on a high note.
“It took a lot of pressure off of us. We were just playing for fun and to make the fans that came tonight happy. We’re glad we got the win,” he said.
Chances were few and far between for most of the opening half at both ends of the pitch, before Sawula pounced on a rebound and buried it behind Kaw Valley keeper Santiago Restuepo, the goal coming in the 32nd minute.
“I kind of focused this game on going forward, not going back as much, but playing positive,” Sawula said. “I got the ball, saw space on the counter, played (Jean-Philippe Rutabayiro) in the middle and just followed up for the rebound.”
Guinovart’s goal, scored seven minutes later, came on a set play, Sawula driving a corner kick toward the front of the Kaw Valley net, the Chill midfielder just getting his head on the ball to redirect it into the net.
“It was lucky,” he said. “It was a corner kick header and then somebody touched it from the other team. It went in, so I’m happy about it. At least we got the win, so good for us.”
The loss dropped Kaw Valley to 5-6-2 and into fifth place, two points behind fourth-place Thunder Bay.
Chill keeper Connor Vande Weghe made a huge stop on Kaw Valley’s John Leisman in the 56th, racing out of his net to cut off the angle and cover the ball. In the 77th Tucker Stephenson had a free kick from 18 yards out, but fired it high over the Thunder Bay net.
Kaw Valley finally got on board in the 88th when Adrian Gutierrez took advantage of a broken play to slip the ball past Vande Weghe.
The Chill, who missed the playoffs for just the second time in 12 seasons, were playing without coach Giovanni Petraglia, who was south of the border completing a licensing course.