Juan Velez’s penalty kill in the 61st minute lifted the Thunder Bay Chill closer to clinching the division title thanks to a 3-0 win over the Des Moines Menace Saturday night at Chapples Park.
Stephen Paterson was again solid in earning his sixth shutout of the season while Fernando Alvarez and Jose Altamirano also scored for the Chill (9-1-0).
“As long as you keep a clean sheet it always gives you a chance,” said Chill head coach Tony Colistro. “We were able to keep them off the scoreboard and that gave us the opportunity. We just needed that one to get it going.”
That “one” opportunity raised the ire of Menace bench boss Laurie Calloway, who pulled no punches on the play that led to Velez’s opening score. Altamirano was driving hard to the net and Des Moines keeper Jhojan Obando collided with him.
“It wasn’t a foul. . . . I get frustrated when the referees make a difference in the game,” Calloway said. “They’re not supposed to make a difference in the game. They’re supposed to referee the games properly.”
Obando stopped Velez on the initial penalty kick, but the Spaniard rolled to his own rebound to fire a low shot to the open side.
“I thought that was a valid PK and we were fortunate to get the rebound on it,” Colistro said. “That changed the game a little bit.”
Alvarez followed with a header goal in the 73rd minute and Altamirano added to the winning margin a minute before stoppage time began.
Before Velez’s winner, the Menace gave Paterson and his defenders all they could handle. Des Moines earned successive corners — the second one needed a pair of punchouts from Paterson to relieve the pressure. Menace defender Jack Pearson and forward Phil Da Silva also had great chances inside. Da Silva missed the net as the Chill were scrambling on one series.
“We tortured them in the second half. (On Friday), their goalkeeper saved them. How many saves did he make? Five? We were getting through to him all the time,” said Calloway, who added he was missing four starters due to visa travel issues.
“Yeah, they’ve got the best record. They’ve got a good team. I’m not denying they’re a good team. I’d say they’re on par with us when we’ve got a full lineup.
Chill captain Sicelo Buthelezi said his teammates did a good job to weather the Menace’s storm.
“They tried to do the same thing we did to them where we tried and turn their defenders,” Buthelezi said. “They turned us and they kind of changed the strategy in the second half. . . . I think we handled it well.”
Thunder Bay needs any combination of four points over its last six games to win the Heartland Division in the Premier Development League. One more win gets them in the playoffs.
“It’s always positive. Like I said in the beginning of the season we always have to look at the positive,” Buthelezi said. “This is a good start for the team. . . . The only thing we can do with this is just build on it.”
The Chill embark on a road trip that will see them play four games in eight days, including two rematches in Des Moines, July 6-7.
“It’d be interesting to see when we get on an even playing field,” Calloway said.
“Hopefully, the referee will know what he’s doing.”
Notes: Chill left back Dominic Roberts was injured in Friday’s 3-1 win and didn’t dress on Saturday. . . . The Chill are bidding to host the Central Conference playoffs which will feature the top two teams in the Heartland and Great Lakes divisions.