THUNDER BAY – The boys in black are back.
Buoyed by MVP Sullivan Silva’s first two goals of the season – and not stung by a pair of other goals called back as offside – the Thunder Bay Chill grabbed their second win of the Canada Day weekend on Monday night, eliminating the St. Louis Lions (3-6-1) from Heartland Division playoff contention with a 2-1 win at Fort William Stadium.
The goals were a long time coming said Silva, the 2012 Premier Development League top player, who has battled injuries for much of the past half a decade.
“Definitely, it was something I wanted since the beginning. I had the opportunities in the past, but I wasn’t able to finish. Today was lucky. The opportunities were there and I was able to score the goals,” said Silva, who arrived in Thunder Bay from Brazil, but now calls the Lakehead his year-round home.
He didn’t wait long to give the Chill their first lead of the night, scoring in the third minute.
“The first one I made a run between the two defenders and it was a very good pass from Francesco (Bruneti) through the defenders,” Silva said.
The second goal came on a free kick in the 30th minute from about 25 yards out, Silva having been hauled down by a Lions defender.
Silva, the oldest player on the team, joked he rarely even practices free kicks anymore, preferring to let a younger leg make the attempt.
But it felt right, he said, so he asked to take it.
It proved to be the right call.
“Even the last session the guys were laughing because I was just watching. But I said I wanted to take it and I was lucky to have that shot,” he said.
Chill coach Gio Petraglia said Silva is the last player on his team he’s worried about, despite his struggle to put the ball into the net in 2019.
“I know he has to play in order to get in form. I kept playing him hoping it could come. Two years ago, it was the same thing, and he had probably the best playoff ever. I’m not worried if he doesn’t score. The work he does for us, it goes over the goals,” Petraglia said.
Speaking of playoffs, the Chill’s latest victory ensured they’ll hit next Saturday’s home finale against second-place Kaw Valley FC still in complete control of their postseason destiny.
The win improved the team’s record to 5-3-2, leaving them five points behind Kaw Valley with two games in hand.
“We just gave ourselves the chance to have a playoff game on Saturday,” Petraglia said, acknowledging a loss would probably end their hopes of leapfrogging Kaw Valley into second place by season’s end.
Silva said that’s the Chill’s focus from here on out, with a pair of road games in Des Moines and a trip to Green Bay to finish off the season left after Saturday’s match.
St. Louis evened the match in the 26th, when Luke Andrews stripped the ball from Anouar Adam and blasted a low shot past Thunder Bay keeper Matthew Mozynski.
Earlier, in the 13th, Luka Gluscevic appeared to have scored for the Chill, only to have the play ruled offside. Silva headed one home in the second half, but was also called offside in the 71st.
Cooper Reis had the best chance to even the match for St. Louis, but his header sailed wide left of the Thunder Bay net in the 66th.
The Lions are 12 points behind Kaw Valley with four games to go, but do not own the tiebreaker and cannot catch second place.