ABBOTSFORD — Point out to the seasoned general that he’s just opened up his 24th season of Canada West coaching with the UBC Thunderbirds, and Mike Mosher smiles before admitting that after a near-quarter century at the helm, you learn to trust your eyes.
And what Mosher saw Friday from his team during a conference-opening 2-0 win against the host Fraser Valley Cascades was dynamic side whose skill, depth and patient self-belief will surely give it a chance to win a third straight Canada West title.
“What comes with experience is a sense of what you have within your group, and just like the last several years, it’s a pretty decent group,” said Mosher assessed after UBC’s huge edge in play throughout the latter stages of the first half and early second half eventually produced goals by Victory Shumbusho and freshman Logan Chung, and a clean sheet for fifth-year keeper Jason Roberts.
“We’re deep, the core is strong, and we think we can score a lot of goals from different places, so we’re very optimistic,” continued Mosher whose team opens the conference home season Sunday (2 p.m.) at Thunderbird Stadium against the Trinity Western Spartans. “This is a starting point. We know we have a lot of room to grow going forward, but I would definitely put this group right there with a lot of our top teams. It’s a matter of ‘Can do the business throughout the season, and then if we’re fortunate, get back to the nationals?’”
There was a time, however, about 15 minutes into the second half, where it looked like UBC might be made to pay for not cashing in on the constant pressure they had exerted in the final third of the field against the Cascades and their freshman keeper Ethan Duggan.
The Birds had an 8-0 edge in corner kicks to that stage, however a Cascades team which had stifled UBC with their tenacious defence, simply ran out of fingers to plug the dike.
Shumbusho took advantage of a mismatched situation following a long UFV throw-in, and in the chaos, deftly scored from close quarter with his back to the net.
Then, in the 80th minute, Whitecaps product Logan Chung, playing his first-ever Canada West game, took on a defender inside the box and with great poise, slotted home the final dagger in the 80th minute.
“I think we sort of ground them down in the first half and that was the message, that we had worn them down and things would come,” said Mosher. “With the series of free kicks and corners that we were getting, you could just smell something coming.”
And if Shumbusho represents the potency within the veteran section of the UBC roster, then Chung represents the next wave.
“Logan Chung comes off the bench, first-year player, first game and a true freshman, and he gets the insurance goal and as soon as he got the ball, I knew that there was a good chance,” said a delighted Mosher. “He has been really good in our preseason games and he’s got bags of skill. He just fits in with our core group. He’s small but he’s creative and he can score goals.”
Cascades’ head coach Tom Lowndes, whose team travels to Victoria to face the Vikes on Sunday (2 p.m.), was philosophical about the setback.
“I think when you go up against one of the top teams in the country, that is the measuring stick you want to test yourself against,” the coach said of a UBC team which topped the Canada West preseason coaches poll.
“I think the game is made up of moments and two moments cost us, and it’s who takes advantage of those moments,” added Lowndes. “I think if we tidy those things up and we come back with the same effort, the same desire, the same work ethic and the same togetherness going over to UVic, then I think we;’ll be in a good place for Sunday.”
After each of UBC’s goals, Fraser Valley responded by ringing shots off the post, first Manpal Brar, and later Mikael Mainella.
The Thunderbird will have more weapons at their disposal Sunday against TWU when reigning U Sports’ Rookie of the Year Thomas Gardner and Nick Fussell both return to the team. The two midfielders sat out Friday after picking up red cards in last season’s national championship tournament.
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