THUNDER BAY – Stealing a page from their 2008 championship season, the Thunder Bay Chill survived a pair of red cards on Saturday night to earn a 2-2, come-from-behind draw against the Des Moines Menace.
Down 2-0 after Hamish Ritchie fired a low shot past Chill keeper Matthew Mozynski in the 51st minute of the game, Neville Morgan was tossed, leaving Thunder Bay down a man.
Not to worry.
In the 58th Pedro Adan lofted a high kick from near centre that midfielder Marco Kuemmerle was able to head over the outstretched hands of Menace goalie Brendan Ledgeway, cutting the Des Moines lead in half.
It was also the first goal the Menace (6-0-2) had allowed all season long.
The Chill weren’t done.
But first the officials added another obstacle to their path to a point, handing Thunder Bay midfielder Ruben Garcia his second yellow of the contest, an automatic ejection.
The Menace continued to press for an insurance goal and nearly got it, but Gerber Chavez and Ignacio Goya De Anca failed on back-to-back point-blank chances deep inside the Thunder Bay box, thanks to clutch stops by Mozynski.
The Chill got their break in the 74th, when Sullivan Silva was brought down inside the inside box.
Manuel Achondo caught Ledgeway going the wrong way on the ensuing penalty kick, evening the score and earning the Chill a badly needed point.
“As soon as the called the PK, I went for the ball,” Achondo said. “I’m used to taking PKs and to be honest I like to take the responsibility. I have confidence in myself taking PKs. My team trusted me, so I just went for it and thank God, it went in.
“It was amazing, hard to describe, but if I had to I’d say it was kind of the reward for the hard work the team did all over the 90 minutes.”
Though it only delivered a point, and the Chill really could have used all three, it was a moral victory, reminiscent of a similar victory in the 2008 Central Conference championship semifinal win over the Cleveland Internationals in which they played the second half with just nine men on the pitch.
It was a wild second half, said Thunder Bay coach Gio Petraglia, who after the red cards were issued told his players to forget about tactics and just get the job done.
“The Thunder Bay Chill spirit came out. That’s very simple. It doesn’t matter how many men we had on the field. It mattered the way we worked and the amount of work we put in,” Petraglia said. “I thought we fought more with nine men in this game than we have so far this season. I believe this is a recharge for everyone. If we fight this way, there is no reason why we can’t make the playoffs.”
The Chill improved to 3-3-2, leaving them 11 points behind first-place Kaw Valley FC with two games in hand, nine behind second place Des Moines.
Mozynski, who allowed a Marek Webber tally in the seventh minute, said the comeback tie could be the catalyst that turns their season around.
“The whole group was just battling. Everyone was working for the guy next to him,” Mozynski said.
“Hopefully we can build off the result. We’re going to start shifting gears to the next couple of games we have at home. Hopefully we can get a decent crowd out again and continue to put some good performances on.”
The Chill host expansion Green Bay on Saturday and the St. Louis Lions on Canada Day.