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Napuri’s five-goal night keeps Calgary United’s season alive

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Felix Napuri’s five-goal effort Saturday kept Calgary United’s quest to defend its Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League title alive.

Arthur Paszkowski added three more goals as United went into the Edmonton Soccer Centre South and beat the Drillers 10-7 in a card-filled, nasty affair. Immediately after the game, league president Mel Kowalchuk went into a closed-door meeting with the match officials.

The win puts Calgary (5-4) one game behind Edmonton (6-3) in the CMISL table. Each team has three games left. Had Edmonton won on Saturday, the Drillers would have been three games up with three to play — and also have the season series over United.

Now, Calgary is looking at three remaining games — all at home, while Edmonton has to go on the road for three. Two of Edmonton’s games are interleague matchups, at the California Cougars in Stockton then down to San Diego before returning to Alberta to meet Calgary in what could be a winner-take all league finale.

The winner of the CMISL title goes to the Professional Arena Soccer League tournament in Cincinnati.

Calgary also has two more interleague games to play, but both will come at home.

“We all know the Edmonton players, it’s a tough rivalry,” said Napuri. “And, for us, it’s playoff soccer. For us, it’s do or die.

“I believe that we needed to win four games in a row, and we got one tonight. And, for Edmonton, going to the United States is tough. It’s hard to win there. The nets are bigger. Those teams usually only bring about half of their players when they come up to Canada, but they will be at full strength. If we can win our games, we have a chance.”

The Drillers dug themselves an early hole, going behind 2-0 after just 90 seconds, and falling behind 3-0 later in the first quarter. Two of those three goals are ones that Drillers teenage keeper Matthew Preston would like to have back. Both Paszkowski and Allen Jovica beat him from bad angles.

The Drillers clawed their way back from a 6-3 deficit to 6-5 halfway through the third quarter, thanks to two workmanlike goals from Paul Dhaliwal. The veteran forward scored his second of the night with his back to goal. Battling with Calgary defender Mat Arok, he was able to get just enough on a flicked effort on goal to beat stunned keeper Marcel Galaskiewicz.

But, as the Drillers pressed to equalize, Paszkowski got the lead up to 7-5 and let the air out of the comeback attempt. Paszkowski broke in on goal, and Preston charged out of his goal to try and tackle him. But Preston went in two-footed, and the referees gave Paszkowski a penalty kick that he converted with ease.

Edmonton tried to claw back in the fourth, but fell short. Mike McCormick scored with two minutes left in regulation to make it 8-7 for the visitors, but Calgary added two empty-net goals, one of them from Napuri, to put the game out of reach.

But, the other question will be how the teams deal with the inevitable suspensions that come from Kowalchuk.

In the third quarter, Calgary’s Dean Northover hit the turf after an off-the-ball incident with Edmonton’s Steven Wheeler. After Wheeler walked away, Galaskiewicz challenged him. After they were broken up, Wheeler and Northover were red carded.

Paszkowski, after notching his hat trick, was sent to the showers for arguing with the referees from the bench. He didn’t make his way to the dressing room quietly, instead he tried to goad Edmonton players into a fight.

Edmonton’s Nadeem Gandji and Marcus Johnstone each received yellow-card majors for unsportsmanlike behaviour.

And, with all the blue cards shows, the penalty box was always a crowded place.

Even more embarrassing for Gandji, who had a goal on the night, was a second-quarter incident. After being called for a foul, Gandji went to the referee and kept talking, as Calgary took the free kick. With Edmonton basically playing a man down because Gandji was too busy trying to argue the call, Paszkowski scored on the break.

“We were very slow coming out of the gate,” lamented Drillers coach Kevin Poissant. “We were very undisciplined. We allowed our emotions to put us into the box for what seemed like at least half of the second half. It was frustrating.”

But Napuri said all the ill will is forgotten after the final whistle.

“What happens on the field, stays on the field. What’s important is that we got the W.”

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