By Steven Smeall & Josh Wegman

s_soccer mens
Algonquin midfielder Saverio Panuccio guards the ball from a Cambrian defender in a 5-0 win on Oct. 6

The Algonquin men’s soccer team was five minutes away from being handed their first regulation loss in three years, but managed to tie the game just a minute later.

After clinching their division the day before, the Thunder took the opportunity to rest main players on Oct. 6 before playoffs.

Forward Abraham Kamara and goalkeeper Simon Brown were absent from the game against the St. Lawrence-Kingston Vikings, possibly rested for what’s predicted to be a strong playoff run.

St. Lawrence-Kingston, being lower in the standings, seemed to be very satisfied with a draw against Algonquin to close their season.

“We got the Algonquin tie? We’ll take it,” said St. Lawrence-Kingston player Riley O’Neil, who was given a red card earlier in the game for a rough tackle.

Luckily, the draw does not change the standings, making sure that Algonquin heads into playoffs with momentum on their side.

“It feels awesome,” said Kamara. “That was our goal, to win the division and move on to nationals and win the national championship.”

“It feels good, it gives us a lot of confidence heading into the playoffs,” said third-year midfielder Saverio Panuccio.

Earlier in the week, the Thunder were able to come away with a 2-0 victory over the Durham Lords on Sept. 27.

Kamara was able to put up two goals in the first half to get Algonquin the win. Kamara has kept himself in the top three in scoring throughout the season.

The Thunder took no time to get things rolling right out of the gate as forward Tim Campos was able to notch the game winner 15 minutes into the match.

“We served the ball in from about 35 metres, it got knocked down to Tim and then he put it in,” said head coach Jimmy Zito.  “We had a lot of chances early on.”

Defender Isaac Johnson was able to add some insurance at around the 63-minute mark when the ball fell to him off a corner kick and he was able to put it in.

Algonquin only let in four goals against throughout the season, tying them for top in league in said category, making Algonquin one of the strongest teams in the league defensively.

“Our center backs have been near perfect, they haven’t missed a beat,” said Zito.  “Both have played very well.”

Both center backs, Johnson and rookie Kenny M’Pindou, stand over 6’2 and have been incredibly tough on opposing teams thus far this season.

The Thunder went on to win a hard fought battle against the Fleming Knights, 2-1, on Sept. 28.

Things got pretty heated towards the end of the match with tackles and, according to Zito, almost a couple of fights.

“We’ve seen teams get chippy over the years,” said Zito.  “Teams will try to slow the game down with a lot of fouls so we can’t get in a rhythm of passing and breaking teams down.  Give them credit, it’s a good tactic.”

“We’re not going to sit here and be bullied by anyone in our province,” said Zito.  “We don’t back down from anybody.”

The Thunder were then given a break to cool their emotions before returning home to play Cambrian on Oct. 5.

Algonquin blew out Cambrian 5-0 to get the dominant win, in which Kamara was able to put in two more goals, bringing his total to eight for the season.

“Every single game I want to score goals, and I have been,” said Kamara.

After getting off to a quick start, the Thunder did not let off on the offensive pressure, controlling most of the game to make sure that they would end the game with the strong division-clinching win.

M’Pindou and Johnson put up goals for Algonquin as well in the game, showing that there are multiple players who can put up points for this team regardless of position.

Through many practices and games throughout the season, the team believes that they have found a connection that helps them perform when needed.

“We have a tight-knit group, guys get along on and off the field and we really look forward to going to war with each other,” said Zito.  “Our team dynamic is really good inside the dressing room.”

Kamara agreed with his coach’s statement.

“We succeed because we have bonded,” said Kamara. “We get along well with each other and we know we have to work hard for each other.”