The Canton Bears Boys Varsity Soccer team closed out their season against Salmon River, losing 3-2. The Bears had been anticipating this game for the past few days, after beating Gouverneur in the 4-5 seed game.
Salmon River was the No. 1 ranked team in the Class B and overall, and Canton was ready for the challenge. The Bears acted differently out on the field. Salmon River controlled play for most of the first half. The Bears got beat to balls, didn’t pick up people in the defensive zone, and couldn’t complete a pass. Turnovers were frequent and the Bears could not generate any offense for most of the first half. All the goals in the first half were Salmon River, and all goals were weak in nature.
Salmon put their first goal in on a kick in front of the Bears bench that floated over goaltender Hayden Todd’s head. Dejected, as Canton lost their last game against Salmon River on a similar shot with 30 seconds left in regulation, the Bears quickly found themselves back on defense.
Salmon carried the ball quickly down the sideline and made a move to the corner. The ball carrier was tripped up inside the 18 yard box and the Shamrocks got a PK. The shot went past the goaltender and the Bears were quickly down 2-0.
Starting with the ball after the goal, the Bears looked to quickly get a goal and get back in the game. The offense continued to struggle and they quickly turned over the ball. A shot saved by Hayden Todd led to a punt and subsequent pass to the right winger, Jacob Rosales, who slid the ball to the striker Scott Ahlfeld. Ahlfeld was on pace with the Salmon defender, and the defender tipped his shot wide and dragged him down in the box, for the second PK in as many minutes. Josh Aldous’s attempt was saved by the goaltender, and the Bears were back on defense.
The Bears continued to play, better, but not to the best of their ability. Another goal found its way over the line in the first half for Salmon, and the game looked like it could be a blowout. Canton settled down and had an excellent chance from Bradley Frank that hit the Shamrock goalie in the face and bounced out of the danger zone. Salmon River almost extended their lead when a rocket of a shot rang off the post, but the ball was cleared away by the Canton defense. The half closed out 3-0 Salmon River, but it felt as if it could have been a lot more.
The second half told a different story. Canton controlled play. Canton rarely gave up the ball in 1-on-1 situations, but had trouble passing the ball to Canton feet. Despite this, the first 20 minutes was definitely Canton-favored. No goals were scored in this period, yet the Bears had more shots in this time than the entire first half.
Canton continued to win the ball and think ahead, making passes to the corners and crossing the ball to people crashing the net. Eventually, the Bears pressure forced a mistake, and the ball rolled out of bounds for a corner kick. Owen Hall put the ball in close while the Bears crowded the net. The ball hit off the goalie’s hands and Cooper Ladouceur used his head to score the Bears first goal of the game. That goal came around the 17’ mark, and the Bears were slowly but surely running out of time.
Reinvigorated, Canton continued to push hard. Ethan Francey found his spot on the field and had multiple crosses and scoring opportunities. Many scoring opportunities later the ball came out high to a Canton defender who put it to Rosales on the wing. Rosales took a step and passed to Tanner Hazelton, scoring with 3:31 to go in regulation.
The Bears’ pressure continued. Another cross was just barely cleared by a Salmon defender. The ball went to the wing and the Shamrocks put the ball to the middle. The ball was going to come short of the 18 yard box, and so Todd hustled to the ball and put it back in. With around 2 minutes remaining, the Canton fullbacks became strikers, as every foul was an opportunity to score. The clock stops when the winning team is subbing with under 5 minutes remaining or when a card is assessed, and between those instances, the final minutes became more like a game of football or basketball with the actual time it took to play them.
The Bears continued to put pressure on the Salmon defense. Whenever the ball was turned over, Salmon cleared the ball as far as possible downfield. In one such case, the ball came back over midfield and Todd went to play the ball. This time, he was fouled by a Salmon forward, who was yellow carded. Two more yellow cards were assessed in the time remaining in the game.
One of the best Canton opportunities came off of a free kick from about midfield with a minute left, when Ahlfeld put the ball over the Shamrock defense. Rosales put a foot on it, but it hit a defender and was cleared out to the left wing sideline. The throw-in went to Chris Downs who dribbled and tried to cross toward the net, but a Salmon defender slide tackled him and the ball was ruled a goal kick with a little under 20 seconds left in the game. The ball was slowly set up and kicked out of bounds to run out the final seconds of the game.
The Bears finished 6-12-0 on the season. Special thanks to Coach Matt Caufield for a great season, Shelly Pike for the photos, AD William Porter for scheduling and keeping the season running smoothly, and Jake Newman for keeping Plaindealersports.com up and running.
Photos come courtesy of Shelly Pike.