Juan Rodriguez must like playing in the rain.
The rookie Thunder Bay Chill sniper scored twice in the second half to break open a 1-1 contest on a soggy Sunday afternoon at Chapples Field.
Rodriguez finished a pass from fellow rookie Dominic Roberts in the 57th minute, then rifled a blistering shot past Winnipeg Lions goalie Sean Golden in the 60th minute, spurring the Chill to a 3-1 exhibition win, their second in two preseason outings this weekend.
Chill coach Tony Colistro, who has some big decisions to make lineup-wise before next weekend’s Premier Development League regular season opener against WSA Winnipeg, said the contest was all about player evaluation.
“We basically put 11 guys on each half, just so we could get a good look at everybody. Today we mixed it up a little bit again,” Colistro said.
“It was good to see that. It’s been a full week here and now we’ll go back and I think we’ve got a better idea what we’ve got to do and which players to hold onto.”
Colistro, who enters his 12th season at the Chill’s helm, said there’s no sense keeping guys around who aren’t going to play.
The Chill are allowed to roster 23 players, including eight imports, with an additional three players allowed if they qualify for under-19 play.
As for what he saw this weekend, despite the two wins, it wasn’t exactly what he was hoping to see from a largely retooled squad that has just six returning players from last year team, which advanced to the PDL semifinal.
“I guess you play an exhibition game and you’re expecting lots of goals and things like that. But there were a lot of new players out there and they’re still getting to know each other. We saw a lot of good things happening and that’s what we’re going to practice and train and work and make those corrections that we’re talking about.”
Colistro would like to see a little better play out of his midfielders next weekend, compacting the line to keep opposition balls from getting through like they did on several occasions with the Lions.
They got lucky on the first breakdown, when Moreno Alberti broke free on Chill netminder Karl Guoabe, but hit the crossbar.
On his second chance, Alberti made it count, striking it across Guoabe’s crease and into the mesh for a 1-0 Winnipeg lead in the 16th minute of play.
“We did get off to a slow start, but it got better in the second half,” said Chill midfielder Matt Luak, who arrived in Thunder Bay this season via Kentucky, Australia and Sudan.
Luak said the Chill must work on ball possession if they want to be successful this season. It’s something that was a little lacking Sunday against Winnipeg, at least in the opening half.
“When you don’t have the ball, you have to make the runs when you need to, stuff like that,” Luak said.
Rookie Sam McCrillis tied the game in the 38th minute, taking a picture perfect pass from Bryce Ziada and putting it past Winnipeg starter Steve Sawatzky.