Against all odds, Cougars win 7-6 over New Jersey
Stockton, CA - Mar. 8, 2008 - After losing four straight games since their last home match, the California Cougars defeated the New Jersey Ironmen 7-6 at Stockton Arena on Saturday night. A crowd of 5,553 fans were treated to a nail biting, hard fought and brutal home win that the Cougars desperately needed to stay alive in the playoff chase. The Cougars (9-15) are now three games behind the Ironmen (12-12) for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Major Indoor Soccer League. Enrique "Qeeks" Tovar nailed a three point goal in the fourth quarter for the game winning shot.
The Cougars fought desperately to gain momentum in the game, but each opportunity seemed to fall to a penalty call. The Cougars were given seven penalties in the match, including three yellow cards and four blue cards. California was penalized four times in the first half, coach Bernie Lilavois was given two yellow cards for dissent and protesting in consecutive fashion during the first quarter. New Jersey was given a total of five penalties in the match, but three of their five were called in the fourth quarter. The three penalties went against player/coach Omid Namazi. He received red card after the game for foul language. Both teams were called for 15 fouls in the match.
Geison was the first and only player to score in the first half. New Jersey led 2-0 after his goal in the second quarter. The goal was assisted by Tim O'Neil.
The Cougars came back in the third quarter with a two-point score in the third quarter by rookie Lee Williams. Williams' goal came at the 5:10 mark of the third and was ruled an unassisted score. The rookie forward dropped back to the defensive side of field for the contest, he also registered a block in the win. Cougars' midfielder Nelson Santana lit up the scoreboard for the ninth time this season with a two-point goal at the 8:03 mark in the third. His score was assisted by Evan McNeley.
Dan Antoniuk answered the Cougars two score rally with two of his own at the end of the third. Antoniuk's second goal was a power play score. New Jersey was one of four in power play conversions. The Cougars were shut out, 0-3 in power play opportunities.
The game winning goal was scored by Tovar at the 4:59 mark of the fourth quarter. "Qeeks" lobbed a three pointer from between midfield and the scoring zone, the ball floated just beyond the reach of Bayard Elfvin for the score.
The Cougars seemed to achieve the victory not only against the Ironmen, but also against the officials. The referee crew ignored a roster violation committed by the Ironmen, and allowed them to continue play despite the infraction. The Cougars had filed an official protest during the game, but left with the 7-6 victory.
Sanaldo was brilliant in goal. He saved 15 of 18 shots faced in his return to the lineup. Elfvin saved 13 of 16 faced in his return to Stockton Arena. Elfvin was also called for an intentional hand ball in second quarter. The Cougars were not able to convert on the ensuing power play chance.
California climbs to three games back of New Jersey for the sixth and final playoff spot with the win. The Ironmen had beaten the Cougars three times this season. They hold the potential tie-breaker over the Cougars for the final playoff spot. They play La Raza de Monterrey in Mexico on Thursday night. The Cougars return to Stockton Arena on March 16, 2008 at 6:15 against Baltimore. Tickets are available by calling (209) 373-1550 or by visiting www.californiacougars.net.
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