HALIFAX – A massive save by Christan Oxner on a penalty kick may have preserved a clean sheet for HFX Wanderers FC against Cavalry FC on Saturday, but there was a little extra motivation behind the stop.
“I probably should have pulled out of the tackle, but you know, I didn’t and that kind of stuff happens,” Wanderers goalkeeper Christian Oxner said after the game.
“I knew it was Peter (Schaale)’s last game for us and it was his final sendoff. He’s my roommate on the road so if I let that in he wouldn’t let me live it down, so I had to make that save for him.”
The game almost tilted in Cavalry’s favour at the hour mark when Oxner picked up a yellow card in the box for bringing down Oliver Minatel. With Dominque Malonga stepping up to take the ensuing penalty kick, Oxner guessed correctly with a diving block on the left side to preserve an eventual 0-0 draw.
As for doing homework on Malonga, Oxner didn’t reveal if he studied or was winging it.
“All I have to say is a magician never tells his tricks, right,” Oxner said with a laugh.
All eyes were on the big German centreback Peter Schaale in his final game before returning to Cape Breton University for the final year of a business degree. With a presentation of a photo before the game and the viking clap from the Kitchen after, Schaale’s exit had lots of fanfare.
But it was the performance on the field that gave a memorable sendoff. The entire backline was solid and managed to prevent Cavalry from scoring for the first time since June 22.
“It was good to get the clean sheets,” Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart said of Oxner’s consecutive shutouts. “I thought Peter and the backline in general was solid. Chrisnovic (N’Sa) had a rough time adjusting but he’s a fighter, he doesn’t give up and Peter had his back today which is important.”
Since returning from a five-game road trip where the Wanderers conceded at least two goals per game, the HFX side has now gone a full 180 minutes without allowing a goal.
“After the tough road stretch we had where we were conceding, to come out at home and keep two clean sheets, it’s definitely going to give us some confidence and hopefully allows some more freedom for when we attack,” Oxner said.
Elements of disappointment loomed in both dressing rooms with the draw. On one side, HFX slowed down the best team in the CPL but on the Cavalry side, a limited lineup still got a result.
“The hardest teams are always tough to break down,” said Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. “It’s a valuable point on the road. We’ve come here now and got seven points out of a possible nine, that’s valuable in the grand scheme of things.”
Sitting next to his brother in the post-game press conference, defender Jonathan Wheeldon had a slightly different perspective.
“We’ve got no excuse today,” said Wheeldon. “We wanted to win the game and we feel we deserved to win the game, we’re disappointed with a point. In hindsight we’ve gone top of the table and still, that’s a locker room full of disappointment.”
For the host Wanderers, Stephen Hart’s message to his team pre-game was to avoid letting Cavalry come in and take points at the Wanderers Grounds for the third time this season.
“I’m a little bit disappointed because Cavalry are going to go away from here thinking they didn’t play…their full starting lineup and they could still get points,” Stephen Hart said. “I think they’ve come in here and they’ve done what they needed to do and they’ve got another big game on Wednesday.”
Cavalry turn around and play Montreal Impact at Spruce Meadows on Wednesday night in the Canadian Championship, while the Wanderers don’t have a game scheduled until August 28th, when they travel to face Valour FC.