It took two hours of soccer and a full round of penalty kicks to crown an NSSL Premier league men’s champion at the Wanderers Grounds on Saturday.
United Dartmouth FC and Western Halifax Durty Nelly’s couldn't settle anything during a scoreless 90 minutes and then traded goals in a dramatic extra 30 to make it 1-1. Ben Gorringe finally ended the marathon when he hit the high corner on his penalty kick to give UDFC the championship.
“I’ll remember that for the rest of my life, that’s for sure,” Gorringe said. “Taking a penalty kick like that, you just have to have the right mindset and be confident you’re going to put it in. The boys worked too hard for me to go up there and miss that one. It felt great to see it go in.”
The Dartmouth victory ends a three-year league championship run for Western Halifax, who also won a national title during that stretch.
“This would’ve been number four but it wasn’t to be,” said Durty Nelly’s captain Shawn Kodejs. “We can leave here with our heads held high. We have the best sponsorship in the league, the best coach and we’re really like a family in there. We win together and we lose together. This one’s a bitter one but I think a lot of good things will come from this. We’ll rebound and I think we’ll be back stronger next year.”
After the 0-0 regulation back-and-forth, Gorringe finally scored the first goal in the opening minute of extra time. He converted a low cross from in close to give UDFC a 1-0 edge they tried to nurse for the remaining 29 minutes.
Durty Nelly’s pushed hard for the equalizer, especially in the second extra half when they had numerous goalmouth scrambles. Kodejs finally got one of the loose balls over the goal line with a nudge from in close in the final minute.
“You just kind of throw everything out there at the end,” Kodejs said. “There were some scrambles because we were desperate. We got a little lucky, it came to me and I was able to head it in. I really thought we had it going into penalties. We felt good and it was a good battle, it just wasn’t our afternoon.”
The teams’ shooters were nearly perfect in the round of penalty kicks, with only one of the 10 attempts being denied. And even that was more a matter of a spectacular diving save by Dartmouth’s Jensen Brown than a mistake on the Halifax shooter’s part.
“All season it was back and forth between the teams,” Gorringe said. “We’d win, and then they’d get one, so it was really even. I think it was a perfect way to have it end today and we’re just lucky we had it go our way.”
The league title caps a banner year for UDFC, who also won the regular season with a near flawless 16-1-1 record. Western Halifax was right behind at 11-3-4 so it was a fitting match-up in the championship game.
“It was a heck of a game; it always is against those guys,” Kodesj said. “It’s never easy in the final and congrats to DU; they had a great season. But there can only be winner.”
The win gave UDFC a sweep of the province’s senior titles. The Dartmouth women locked down their crown just before the men’s game.
“That’s really nice and we feel like we deserve it,” Gorringe said. “We took it really seriously this year and ... everyone bought in.”
Dartmouth will have two months to prepare for nationals in Newfoundland in mid-October.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” Gorringe said. “I think we’ve got a great shot.”