(FREDERICTON, N.B.) - The Cape Breton Capers are the 2016 AUS men's soccer champions. The second-seeded Capers scored a 3-1 win over the top-ranked Acadia University Axemen, at BMO Centre, in Fredericton.
Stuart Heath (Belfast, Ireland) scored twice to lead the Capers.
CBU's Cory Bent (Preston, United Kingdom) was named the Most Valuable Player of the Subway AUS men's soccer championship tournament.
"It's hard to fathom what's really happened," said Bent, amid a wild post-game celebration. "Everyone's going wild, it's pandemonium here. We're all enjoying the moment."
The Capers opened the scoring in the 11th minute.
Heath, a third-year defender, snuck down the right wing and powered a shot past Acadia keeper Nigel Goodwin (Milton, Ont.).
Cape Breton, who lost in last year's final to the UNB Varsity Reds, pushed for a second goal, but took the 1-0 lead to the half.
Acadia appeared much more poised as the second half began, and it paid off almost immediately.
Andrew Snyder's goal, in the 52nd minute, tied the game 1-1, and breathed new life into the Axemen.
But the Capers didn't flinch.
Heath scored his second of the game in the 62nd minute.
The Axemen had chances to tie it again, but Capers keeper Jamie Wilson (Dunbar, Scotland) held firm in the CBU net.
Cedric N'Guessan (Den Haag, Netherlands) scored in the 87th minute to seal the victory.
When the final whistle blew, the Capers bench rushed the field in celebration.
"We did our jobs and everyone made sure that each other did their jobs," said Bent. "If one man fell, the other behind him picked him up. I think that was the difference."
While the Capers celebrated, the Axemen consoled each other, the disappointment obvious on their faces.
"Our first half was just atrocious," said Axemen head coach Findlay MacRae. "Cape Breton deserved to win that game, there's no question, but the first half we were sleepwalking… and they wanted it more."
"In terms of effort, we turned it around in the second half, but it was too little, too late," said MacRae.
"We didn't play our best, that's what it boils down to," said Snyder. "We worked so hard all season, and to come out and play so poorly in the first half… it's really hard. It's a feeling that's hard to describe."
The win was sweet for Capers head coach Deano Morley.
The past two seasons, his team has fallen short in the conference championship game.
"We've been close for the past few years, and to finally get the job done, it means a lot and is just so rewarding," said Morley.
"I've had two years of seeing a mental image in my head of watching the other team walk off the field with the trophy, and in last year's game I truly felt that we deserved it. Over the year, that image drove me to go work hard, build new relationships, find the right people to bring into the program and it's been a driving force."
The Capers now move on to the national men's soccer championship, at the University of Guelph.
The Axemen will go to Guelph too.
Andrew Snyder, the most valuable player of the AUS regular season, says they're eager for what they see as a second chance.
"Winning that first game at nationals is crucial," said Snyder. "Our goal right now is to make progress and do all that we can. This is certainly a set-back, but we'll re-group and do our best to succeed."
Recap and photos courtesy of Andy Campbell, UNB Athletics