After years of finishing as the top team in the regular season, only to come up short in the playoffs, CJ Contracting finally got the proverbial monkey off its back.
First-place CJ used an early first-half goal to eke out a 1-0 win over second-place Manitou Forest Products in the second-and-deciding game of the Borderland Soccer League's men's division final last Tuesday night at the St. Francis Sports Field.
“It was a great relief to finally pull out a victory after frustratingly losing out in [penalty] kicks twice and another time in the final,” enthused CJ forward Ian Jodoin, who led the men's division in scoring during the regular season with nine goals.
“Our team has done very well throughout the entire season,” he added.
“We have a group of guys who have played together forever, which is amazing to have and makes it such a good time.”
Connor Bujold gave his squad the only goal it would need within the first 10 minutes of the opening half.
After a couple of dangerous chances either were saved or rang off the post, Bujold got a header on a mid-air rebound and directed a shot just under the bar over an outstretched Jacob Albright.
CJ keeper Cole Kowalski did the rest by shutting the door on Manitou's scorers to earn the shutout.
“We've added some more young guys [to our team], as well, so it's great to keep the team progressing,” noted Jodoin.
“Playing in our men's league every year is a great time,” he added.
“It's good soccer and lots of fun.”
Manitou did press later in the half in an attempt to even the score, and also had its chances in the second half, but just couldn't find a way to get one past Kowalski.
Albright suffered the hard-luck loss for Manitou but was impressive in his own right in coming up with clutch saves time and again.
The two squads went into the game after battling to a scoreless tie in the opener the previous night to set the tone for a thrilling wrap up to the men's season.
Kowalski and Albright went save-for-save with each other in a friendly competition between a former and current Muskie.
CJ had earned a bye to the final by virtue of its first-place finish in the regular-season.
Manitou, meanwhile, had to fend off last-place Centra Pipelines in a two-game, total-goals semi-final held Aug. 8-9 in order to advance.
They took the series 4-1 on aggregate score after winning the opener 3-0 and then battling to a 1-1 tie the following night.
Looking ahead, Jodoin said he hopes the men's division can go back to having more teams like it had in previous years, but didn't feel as though having fewer teams this season affected his squad.
“I am really hoping we will be able to recruit lots of new and old faces into the league so we can return to our four-team league,” he remarked.
“Over the summer, our guys have just kept playing the way we normally do,” Jodoin added.
“We are all friends on the team, which just makes it easy,” he reasoned.