Thriller at Thunderbird: Montreal Carabins claim national’s gold in overtime against reigning champions Cape Breton Capers

Revenge, especially a year later, is sweet.

In a rematch of the 2017 U Sports men’s soccer national final, the Montreal Carabins finally defeated their old nemesis the Cape Breton Capers — a team who took the title away from them in last year’s gold game — with a 2-1 overtime win.

Last year, the Capers best the Quebec side 3-2 in penalty kicks.

It took just two minutes for this year’s final to see its first goal. Latching on to a lobbed ball from the midfield, Carabins striker Guy-Frank Essome-Penda sent an arching shot past Capers keeper and last year’s gold medal man of the match Ben Jackson.

Montreal's Frederic Lajoie-Gravelle tries to get in front of a kick from Capers keeper Ben Jackson.
Montreal's Frederic Lajoie-Gravelle tries to get in front of a kick from Capers keeper Ben Jackson. Ryan Neale

Through the rest of the half, the Capers would pressure the Carabins consistently, though they were unable to execute on their possession in the final third — at best, they looked to be scrambling to find a way to net. Montreal, on the other hand, benefited from their counterattack and speed of strikers Esomme-Penda and Frederic Lajoie Gravelle to provide some creativity in and around the Capers box.

That said, both teams were unable to add to their team’s tally.

It wouldn’t be until the 44th minute when one of the teams would find the back of the net, though — it would be a goal to make things interesting going into the second half. In a crowded box, Cape Breton’s midfielder Caelann Budhoo slotted the ball past a sprawling Felix Goulet to even things up.

A goalless second would send the teams into overtime. For the Capers, their set-up getting into the box continued to impress, but Montreal’s defense held strong at the 20-yard mark to stimey any real opportunities. For the Carabins, the team continued to impress on the counterattack and started to find the feet of star striker Lajoie-Gravelle, but his execution was subpar and he was unable to put his side ahead.

Caelann Budhoo moves in to stop a Carabins tackle.
Caelann Budhoo moves in to stop a Carabins tackle. Ryan Neale

A second yellow card to Cape Breton defender Peter Schaale in the 104th minute put the Atlantic side at a disadvantage with another OT half left to play — throughout the game, he had several verbal warnings too, so a sending-off was well within the realm of possibility. The Capers would make it to the overtime break unscathed.

But their luck would run out in the 118th minute, as Montreal’s Omar Kreim beat two Cape Breton defenders and sent the ball across the goal line to a waiting Lajoie-Gravelle — from that distance, he couldn’t miss and would set his team ahead 2-1.

One last-ditch attempt from a corner kick from the Capers would be deflected out. With the final whistle, the Carabins would claim gold.

"Honestly, I've missed a couple of chance and I just wanted to get back, get the team in advance, so we did it a little bit late. We didn't want to go [into] overtime, but we went and we stayed focused and that's it," Lajoie-Gravelle said after the game. "We knew, we believed in our chance, we believed in us and we won and that's it."

"Very proud of them, they showed a lot of character. As soon as we opened camp this year, we had one thing in mind: to get back to nationals and try to change the taste in [our team's] mouth for last year's [penalty kick] loss. And that's the only objective they had in mind and they worked so hard to get back here and I'm really proud of them,"Montreal head coach Pat Raimondo said post-game. "Good character, good personalities, they did well — they deserve it."

The Capers wonder what went wrong post-game.
The Capers wonder what went wrong post-game. Ryan Neale
Lajoie-Gravelle celebrates with team staff.
Lajoie-Gravelle celebrates with team staff. Ryan Neale

Player of the game awards would go Cape Breton’s Jack Simpson and Montreal’s Omar Kreim.

The R.W. Pugh Fair Play Award for the tournament went to the Carleton University Ravens, who claimed the bronze medal earlier in the day. Tournament MVP would go to Montreal's standout of the season Lajoie-Gravelle.

The 2018 U Sports champions: Montreal.
The 2018 U Sports champions: Montreal. Salomon Micko Benrimoh
Champagne showers for the Carabins.
Champagne showers for the Carabins. Salomon Micko Benrimoh