The ACAC Championships have finished and last year's champs have done it again.
03/08/2015...Lloydminster, Alberta - Repeat. Repeat.
For the 2015 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference Men’s and Women’s Futsal Championships held in Lloydminster, Alberta and hosted by the Lakeland College Rustlers it was Deja vu.
On the men’s side it was two-time defending champion Keyano College Huskies versus the Rustlers, their opponents in 2014 and 2013 with the Fort McMurray contingent winning 7-2 and 5-1 respectively.
Rustlers also knew the taste of gold from their cleats, having won back-to-back in 2011 and 2012.
Huskies had captured bronze in 2012.
To get to the gold medal men’s championship, Huskies beat Ambrose Lions 5-1 and Medicine Hat Rattlers 10-2 while Rustlers secured their spot with 7-5 and 8-2 decisions against Rattlers and Lions.
The Rustlers opening match versus Keyano scheduled Friday evening was postponed due to the fact that the Keyano Huskies bus along with other transport, was stuck on the highway south for more than six hours due to an accident.
In the gold medal men’s game this afternoon at Lloydminster Campus Gymnasium, it was a scoreless first half.
Five minutes into the second half ACAC Men’s Futsal Player of Year Pedro Bianchi scored off a direct kick just outside the goalies crease to light up the scoreboard.
Huskies went up 2-0 but Lakeland retaliated 90 seconds later with a goal to make it 2-1 with 14:03 left in regulation.
Bianchi scored with 9:40 remaining but once again the Rustlers reply 18 seconds later to narrow the gap 3-2. At the 8:09 mark Rustlers score to tie it at 3-3.
With 2:45 remaining Nathan Aulenbach takes a pass in the middle to once again put Huskies up 4-3.
“He (Aulenbach) is a kid that works extremely hard and his work ethic is unparalleled,” said Huskies head coach Connor Brady.
Rustlers bringing out their goalie for an extra attacker they are caught on a three-on-one situation with Huskies Rodrigo Koebsch scoring the insurance goal 5-3 with 43 ticks left on the clock.
“In the men’s game it came down to who executed better and we did not,” said Rustlers head coach Kevin Wagner. “We were down 3-to-1 and needed to make some adjustments and we did tying it up 3-3. But we could not finish them off and they finished with a nice opportunity as we had to take some risks bringing our goalie out.”
Of the three-peat, Brady said: “It feels good. Really good. Winning championships is good but being part of this team for the last two-and-half or three years is something special and something I will never forget.
“There has been a lot of sacrifices made. Part of the reason is that when our guys come in, we let them know about the work ethic that is expected and the commitment that is required; they accepted it and embraced it. We train seven-days-a-week and we train hard...you do not need much to get them motivated. They conducted themselves as true champions.”
In the women’s gold medal match it was defending champion Medicine Hat Rattlers versus the host Rustlers.
This was the third consecutive year in a row that the women’s gold medal showcased Rustlers vs Rattlers.
As already mentioned, the Rattlers were defending champions with a 4-2 decision in 2014 while the Rustlers won in 2013 behind a 3-2 final.
Rattlers also won in 2011 and were silver medalists in 2012.
To advance to the women’s final, the Jim Loughlin coached Rattlers, who had finished the ACAC regular season with a record of 5 wins, 2 losses, 1 tie with 36 goals for and 21 goals against, beat during championship tournament play the Ambrose Lions 4-2, Lakeland Rustlers 4-1 and Keyano Huskies 6-1.
Rustlers, under the guidance of Kevin Wagner, advanced with a 3-3 tie against the Lions and a 4-2 victory versus the Huskies.
This time around though in the gold matchup, the Rustlers would be held off the score sheet as it was a shutout 4-0 in favour of the Rattlers.
“I am happy with the way the girls played,” said Rustlers coach Wagner. “It was close until the last 13 minutes. We had our chances and we competed well but at the end of the day they (Rattlers) were a better team and we were a bit overmatched.”
Three-time bronze medal champion in ACAC Women's Futsal the Keyano College Huskies lost to Ambrose 3-1 in the bronze medal match.
This was the third time in four years that the two colleges faced off for bronze medal status.
Wagner emphasised how the sport of futsal relates to the performance of the schools on the ACAC soccer pitch: “Of the three teams that went gold, silver and bronze (men’s futsal) you can now look at their programs in soccer and I think the correlation between that shows how much it is paying off.”
PHOTO: Courtesy of Lakeland Rustlers Athletics Department