By Thomas Becker
He knew it the moment the ball left his foot.
In the 90th minute, third-year fullback Luis Garcia, fired a laser from just inside the 18-yard box through a defender's legs and past the goalkeeper, who couldn't even react. It was his second goal of the game, as he led the UNB Reds to a 2-1 win over the UPEI Panthers.
"It was a huge moment," said Garcia, who was named the Subway Player of the Game. "It was great to see the ball floating in there. When you hit the sweet spot, you know where it's going."
The Reds (5-2-2) came into the game a point ahead of the Panthers (4-5-1), but had visions of coming away with three more to solidify their playoff position.
"Just seeing the effort from the guys and all the hard work they put in we knew we needed to get three points somehow."
Looking to redeem themselves from a 3-0 loss last month, UPEI pushed the pace early and had a chance to grab the lead when Cohen Reddick-Stevens was sent in alone on a break away, only to fire it off the hands of goalkeeper Evan Barker to keep it scoreless.
That would prove costly, as the visitors would get on the board later in the half. After Tristan Nkoghe fired one off the crossbar in the 31st minute, the Reds came back just two minutes later and made it count when Garcia sent a low shot past Nathan Ford for the 1-0 advantage.
The Panthers battled back in the 37th minute when Nathan Chow carried the ball up the right side, made a move past Garcia and sent a low cross through the 6-yard box where Reddick-Stevens redirected it for the tying goal.
There were times in the second half where both teams put the pressure on the defence, but it was UNB who did just enough to come away with a big three points. If Garcia's 90th-minute shot was off by even inches it would've hit Nathan Chow's leg and the game may have ended in a draw, but the strike was perfectly placed through his legs and curled into the net for the win.
With three games remaining the Reds now look to push for one of the two coveted byes, currently occupied by the Cape Breton Capers and St. FX X-Men.
"We saw today what it's going to take. It's going to take everything from every guy," Garcia said.
The Panthers, meanwhile, look to get back in the win column and solidify their place in the postseason. They'll get a chance to earn some much-needed points on Oct. 19 when they square off against the Saint Mary's Huskies.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan