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The wait was worth it. But it’s not over yet.
Goals by Gavin Hoy, Fernando Alvarez and Juan Velez earned the Thunder Bay Chill a regular-season-ending 3-1 victory over the Kansas City Brass Saturday night, a game delayed 45 minutes by a nearby lightning storm.
With the win the Chill equalled their all-time single-season best record at 13-2-1, matching their 2008 championship season mark. But more importantly they vaulted two points ahead of the Great Lakes Division champion Michigan Bucks.
Should the Bucks drop their season finale on Sunday to the visiting River City Rovers, a team that beat Michigan 2-1 on Friday night, or settle for a tie, the Chill would finish the season with the best record in the Premier Development League. It would all but clinch hosting duties for next weekend’s Central Conference Championship.
“It’s in Michigan’s hands, what they can do,” said Alvarez, who entered the game in the 36th minute and deposited a Sullivan Silva pass behind Kansas City goalkeeper Alex Drambrur in the 70th.
“Hopefully we host the playoffs for the second time here. Two years ago we hosted and it was an absolutely amazing atmosphere. So hopefully we do it again.”
Hosting at home would seem to give the Chill a tremendous advantage. They haven’t lost at Chapples Park since a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Rochester Thunder on July 24, 2010, and have gone 15-0-1 there the past two seasons.
“Like our coach said at the beginning of every home game, we don’t lose at home. I think that’s our biggest advantage. It will satisfy our fans as well,” Alvarez said.
Hoy, a Thunder Bay product making just his second start of the season, said finishing with a pair of wins over a tough Kansas City squad feels great.
Now fate takes over.
“We definitely had to do it,” said Hoy, who took a cross pass from Silva, the league’s leading goal-scorer and point-getter, and punched home the only goal of the first half in the 10th minute.
“Now we put it in Michigan’s hands. Otherwise it would have just been a free game for them. But now we get to see what they’re made of and hopefully we get to host next weekend. That’s the ideal thing.”
Hoy’s playoff memories immediately turned to 2008, when the Chill hosted Vancouver en route to a national title in Laredo.
“It was the craziest atmosphere I’ve ever seen at Chapples, so I’d love to play in that and see that again.”
The Chill almost got the win in abbreviated fashion. League rules allow officials to call a game at the half if weather becomes an issue.
Neither Kanas City nor Thunder Bay wanted a shortened game, and though there was discussion of finishing it on Sunday, they decided to wait out the system and hope they could get the game completed before darkness set in.
“There was some talk of continuing it tomorrow, but the officials aren’t from here. Luckily it gets dark here after 10, and that’s why we were able to finish it.”
Colistro, who told his squad to come out like it was a 45-minute game, knowing the weather could halt it at any time, said they did what he asked.
“We put ourselves in a fighting chance for tomorrow and we’ll just hope for the best and see what happens and go from there.”
Like Hoy, Colistro sees a definite home-field advantage at Chapples Field, starting with the fans.
“The guys were even saying they couldn’t believe there were still people here, diehards, waiting for the game to play out. Not traveling of course (is a bonus) and of course our field (is great). It’s grass, it’s the perfect size and it’s the field we train on.”
Pitch marks: River City, Michigan’s Sunday opponent, has plenty to play for. A win means they’ll host the Great Lakes Division 2-3 play-in this week. A loss means a trip to London, Ont. for the game … Silva’s two assists gives him 32 points on the season, four more than Reading’s Deshorn Brown. Brown has one game remaining. Brown and Silva are tied for top spot with 13 goals … Karl Guoabe was in net for the Chill and made a spectacular stop on Kansas City’s Kyle Grieg from point-blank range in the 19th minute.
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