Tagg’s douses Heat in final

For the second consecutive year, Tagg’s met the Dryden Heat in the final of the men’s “Borderland Ball Blast” soccer tournament. And for the second year in a row, Tagg’s was crowned tournament champs.
Tagg’s dominated the Dryden squad from the opening whistle, controlling the ball throughout the first half (with a strong wind at their back) but could only muster a 1-0 lead en route to a commanding 4-1 victory.
Gord Keesic, a veteran university player with the Brock Badgers in St. Catharines, Ont., jump-started Tagg’s with a beautiful individual effort, beating a Dryden defender and then drilling a low shot to the left side that beat Dryden’s diving goalkeeper, Andy Bartlett, at the 35-minute mark.
It was an important goal for Tagg’s, which had several scoring chances on the pressing attack from the brothers Olaf and Thor Ruppenstein. Tagg’s was routinely first to the ball and clearly had the majority of the game’s chances.
“It’s always important to get that first goal,” said Keesic, “Because you look at all the chances they had [later in the game].”
But the 1-0 lead didn’t seem safe and Tagg’s pressed again late in the half and nearly made it 2-0, only to be stymied twice by the crossbar in a matter of seconds. Keesic walked right in on the Dryden goal untouched, and drilled a shot that squarely hit the middle of the crossbar and then rebounded directly back to Mike Webb who then headed the ball (with a Dryden defender draped all over him) again off the bar.
That gave the Heat the break they needed, only down 1-0 at the half, and shifting to have the wind at their backs.
But it was Tagg’s who dominated in the second half, once again controlling the ball up the field while keeping Dryden quiet in their defensive end.
After Webb was robbed on a fine kick save by Bartlett, the rebound came directly back to him, and he delivered a perfect cross to Thor Ruppenstein, who placed a shot in the upper right corner for a 2-0 advantage.
Tagg’s keeper Mike Shute, who was solid in net, said that second goal was an important one for their squad, giving them breathing room against a very tough Dryden team Tagg’s has faced several times in the past. (Tagg’s also defeated the Heat 3-1 on penalty kicks in last year’s “Ball Blast” final).
Still, he was confident his team would out-play Dryden in the final.
“It didn’t surprise me that we dominated them,” said Shute after the game. “Our guys played well in front of me defensively which really took the pressure off of me.”
Shute said they played a style of defence which has three players back and one “roving.” It was a style that worked well all weekend as Tagg’s surrendered just three goals in the tournament.
Leading 2-0 mid-way through the half, Webb was then hauled down in the box and was awarded a penalty shot. And the men’s Borderland League’s leading scorer with 15 goals during the regular season made no mistake, drilling a shot high to the middle of the net while Bartlett dove to his left.
Down 3-0, the game was all but over while Dryden had an opportunity to break Shute’s shutout bid on a penalty shot. But their attempt hit the left goalpost squarely and the rebound was cleared by a Tagg’s defender. Webb later scored his second of the game to ice the victory.
Still, Dryden didn’t quit and finally got on the board with about seven minutes left in the game.
“They are a young team that plays a fast [up-tempo] game but today they seemed flat,” said Webb, adding he also was impressed with the club’s defence in the final.
Tagg’s, which placed first in Pool-A, reached the final with a 5-1 victory over Nova, the second-place finisher in Pool-B. Nova then was defeated 4-3 in a shootout (teams were tied 2-2 after regulation and overtime) to the Dryden Drillers in the consolation final.