THUNDER BAY – The Thunder Bay Chill are back in control of their own playoff destiny.
The USL2 club hit a pair of posts in the opening half on Saturday night, but didn’t let it affect their focus going forward, leading to a pair of goals in the second half and a 2-0 win in the team’s first ever meeting against the expansion Green Bay Voyageurs at Fort William Stadium.
Nolan Sherwood struck first, converting a pass from Sullivan Silva in the 47th minute, as the Chill broke the goose egg and took a 1-0 lead in a must-win contest.
Sherwood had a hand in his team’s second of the night, threading a pass to Marco Kuemmerle, who found himself in a one-on-one battle against Green Bay keeper Dean Cowdry.
Kuemmerle slid the ball to Cowdry’s right, doubling the Thunder Bay lead in the 68th.
The win inches the third-place Chill to within eight points of second-place Kaw Valley FC, who dropped a 1-0 decision Saturday night at the hands of the Heartland Division-leading Des Moines Menace.
Thunder Bay, who will take on Kaw Valley next Saturday on their home turf, has three games in hand in the race for second.
“We knew the chances were coming and we knew that we were going to score. It was just a matter of time and continuing to push and pressure them,” said Sherwood, a Las Vegas product who plays for Rocky Mountain College.
“Luckily it came within the first 10 minutes of the second half.”
Sherwood added the getting the win is a confidence boost moving forward, the Chill hosting the pesky St. Louis Lions on Canada Day, the fourth of five straight on home turf.
“I think this game, we’re going to take the momentum into the next,” Sherwood said. “Coach says we’ve got to take each game one step at a time. It looks like we’re on the right path.”
The victory pushed the Chill back over the .500 mark, upping their record to 4-3-2, leaving five games on their 2019 schedule.
Thunder Bay coach Gio Petraglia said six points is a must over the Canada Day weekend, and he’s happy they're still on track to hit that mark.
“It was huge,” he said. “We know we cannot make any more mistakes. We need to get six points before what’s basically a playoff game against Kaw Valley next Saturday, here. I knew we were ready mentally. Last week, the second half against Des Moines I knew the team was ready.”
Petraglia said he wasn’t too worried about the slow start offensively. The chances were there, it was simply a matter of converting them.
“We hit the post twice and that’s what I (told) the boys at halftime, just to be patient, keep playing the same way, the same mentality, because the goal was coming.”
Marco Kuemmerle had the first big chance for the Chill in the 28th, but Cowdry was up to the task, turning aside the shot from deep inside Voyageurs territory.
In the 30th, Sherwood let loose a shot that looked to be headed toward the back of the Green Bay net, but Cowdry made a diving deflection, the ball glancing off the post.
Then, in the 42nd Silva headed a pass from the top of the boss that also had eyes, only to ricochet off the right post and out of harm’s way.
Green Bay (2-3-2) spent the majority of injury time in the second half a man down, after Zach Klancnik was handed his second yellow of the night.
Game time Monday night between Thunder Bay and St. Louis is 7:30 p.m.