The Holy Cross Kirby Group-Mount Pearl That Pro Look/Molson soccer rivalry, which has been luke warm at best in recent years, suddenly came to a boil Wednesday night.
Mount Pearl and the defending champion Crusaders played to a 1-1 draw in Molson Challenge Cup play at Smallwood Field in an entertaining match that may have set the tone for both teams for the rest of the season.
Nick Chretien scored for Mount Pearl in the first half and Tyler Forsey with his league-leading fifth goal of the season, replied for Holy Cross in the second half.
The hard-fought game featured plenty of borderline tackles and an ejection early in the second half.
Mount Pearl were forced to play a man short for most of the second half when Victor Dray was ejected following a scuffle around the Mount Pearl net.
A brief tussle between players on both side broke out at the 50-minute mark after some Mount Pearl players took exception to the rough ride goalkeeper Luke Olmstead got after making a save. A few Holy Cross players ended up on top of the keeper and Dray went after them.
Dray was shown a red card by referee Mark Hayward for "violent conduct" while Chris Pope was yellow-carded for unsportsmanlike conduct."
"It was kind of a mess and bodies were falling on me. I really didn't see what was going on," said Olmstead.
"It was big for us to respond to Holy Cross at that point and then to hold on to the tie."
Actually, what was big was the play of the Mount Pearl keeper who made several terrific saves including one on a penalty kick and another one on a point-blank shot by Steve Delong in extra time. He also pulled off a couple of good saves in the first half.
Olmstead said he guessed right on the penalty kick save at the 76-minute mark.
"I picked the way I was going to go as soon as I saw who was taking it," said Olmstead of his superb diving stop.
"Soon as I saw that (Zach) Wade was going to take it, I knew I was going to my right."
Olmstead said the team had to play more defensively in the second half.
"We didn't plan to play so much defensively, but once we got the red we were sort of forced to play that way. We had to play a little bit safer," he noted.
Olmstead called the tie an important one, even though it is early in the season.
Certainly the jubilant reaction of the Mount Pearl players heading to the dressing room after the game indicated they were more than satisfied with the draw under the circumstances.
Mount Pearl coach Walt Mavin called his team's effort "gutsy."
"Cross is a very efficient team at moving the ball. We talked about that before the game and we talked about not getting out of position defensively. The guys did a good job of staying organized and forcing them to try to come at us.
"I wished we could have pushed them a bit more," noted Mavin, "but when you are down to 10 players, it's kind of tough. Overall, we got a great effort and when you get that kind of goalkeeping we got tonight ... it's fantastic."
Mavin said he didn't see clearly the incident that produced the red card that put his team down one man with most of the second half still to play.
"But I'm surprised that only one red card came out of a scrimmage like that," he said. "That's unusual and that's all I can say."
The veteran Mount Pearl mentor said getting the point was "a confidence builder early in the season.
"We're still growing as a team. We've got some young guys just getting their legs," he added.
Holy Cross looked to have scored the winner late in the game.
Jeremy Babstock put the ball in the back of the Mount Pearl net with three minutes on the clock, but the play was ruled offside.
"I felt it was a good goal, but things like that happen sometimes," said Babstock, who took the assistant ref's ruling in stride.
"It wasn't a good feeling, but we had lots of other chances to score in the game, so we can hardly blame it on the one called back," Babstock said.
The teams play again Saturday, May 25 and Babstock said he's looking forward to the rematch.
Meanwhile, in other Challenge Cup action at Topsail Field, Feildians Ernst & Young blanked Strikers FC 2-0.
Ian Manderville, at 67 minutes, and Zack Hynes, at 90 minutes, had the goals for the Double Blues, while Michael Bartellas posted the shutout.