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HomeSportsHart AttackHARTLEY’S HART ATTACK – (Risk vs. reward) October 28th, 2022 EDITION 912

HARTLEY’S HART ATTACK – (Risk vs. reward) October 28th, 2022 EDITION 912

The UNBC Timberwolves made great strides this year in Canada West men’s soccer.

In the 2021 season, they finished out of the playoffs and sixth out of seven teams in the West Division with a record of 2-5-5.

In 2019 (there was no 2020 season due to the pandemic) they were last at 4-8-3.

Prior to this season, the last time they finished with an above .500 record was in 2018 when they placed fourth going 6-4-5.

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This year the Timberwolves, guided by head coach Steve Simonson, should be applauded for a job well done, with their best season ever (since joining Canada West in 2011) with a record of 8-5-3 good for third place in the Pacific Division.

I wanted to put that upfront to emphasize improvement and a strong showing.

Having said that, as an outsider looking in, it appears there was a questionable or suspect coaching decision entering their last regular season game on Sunday against the Fraser Valley Cascades in Abbotsford.

With a full lineup, UNBC beat the Fraser Valley Cascades 3-1 on Friday of last week as striker Michael Henman scored the winner, his league-leading 19th, to tie the conference record for most goals in one season.

Henman was not given a chance to break the record on Sunday as he and four other regulars sat out in what turned out to be a 2-0 UNBC loss against those same Cascades.

The reason Henman along with other starters Gregor Smith, Kaiden Miner, Anthony Preston, and Koby Greaves watched from the sidelines was due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

If they played and got another yellow card they would be suspended for one game, which would be a playoff game.

So, I understand the logic in the decision to rest them, however, it came at a price and I would ask if it was really worth it.

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If the Timberwolves got at least a tie in that game, they would have finished second instead of third and that would have meant a home quarterfinal game Saturday instead of playing on the road.

The UNBC men have never had a home playoff game in Canada West men’s soccer.

That was something to strive for, have a home-field advantage and give your fans and players a reward for many lean years.

In addition, Henman was denied a chance to make history.

I want to make it clear, had UNBC not gone with a much younger lineup (and played those five starters), there is no guarantee they would have picked up a point or more.

There are practically no guarantees in sports (although Vancouver Canucks fans may feel it is a guarantee each year their team will never capture the Stanley Cup).

When it comes to sports, we are conditioned that the most important part of the season is the playoffs (should a team qualify) but sometimes the journey can hold as much weight.

The Timberwolves visit the (5-2-7) Alberta Golden Bears (second in the Prairie Division) Saturday afternoon in Edmonton and if they win they will advance to the Canada West Final Four, but if they lose they are knocked out.

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For what little it is worth, Alberta beat the UNBC men 4-1 on September 16th.

If the UNBC men beat the Golden Bears then it becomes more difficult to argue against the decision to sit five starters, but if they are one and done, the second-guessing can take on a different tone.

As someone that follows sports closely (not necessarily soccer) given this situation, I would want to give my team the best chance to win in the playoffs and the preference for a home game instead of on the road.

Had UNBC finished second, they would have had a home game against the (6-5-3) Calgary Dinos (third in the Prairie Division).

Those two teams never met in the regular season.

The beauty of any sport is often there are two sides to an argument where a strong case can be made for each.

I understand if Henman played on Sunday and got a yellow card and was ineligible to participate in a crucial playoff game that would severely hamper the Timberwolves’ chances.

Sometimes though you have to weigh the risk vs. the reward.

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Soccer can often be viewed as a conservative game and this UNBC decision, to an outsider, seems like a very conservative decision.


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Hartley Miller is the news and sports director/supervisor plus morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97fm. He is in his 10th season as the radio colour commentator for P.G. Cougars’ home games. Hartley has been on the Prince George airwaves since 1979 and is the author of You Don’t Say (sports quotes).



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