On Saturday night the Mississauga MetroStars were in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for the final game of their inaugural season.
Travelling without leading scorer Mo Babouli or co-captain Dwayne De Rosario, the MetroStars made their way south to try and end their season on a high note - and after an incredible comeback, nearly did just that.
The MetroStars took the lead 3:42 into the opening quarter, as Damion Graham scored his 16th goal of the season, and first in what was a huge night for the forward. He scored from the edge of the penalty area and followed it up with teammate Dwayne De Rosario's classic shake and bake celebration.
The Heat took the lead in the second quarter as Patrick Thompson kicked the ball off the boards and into the penalty area. The ball was redirected by Halburto Harris and into the MetroStars net, tying the game at 1-1.
The Heat took a 2-1 lead just 65 seconds later, as Matt Braem fired the ball home after teammate Edgar Godoy did all the dirty work in the corner, freeing the ball.
They would double their lead at 7:42 through Daniel Villela. After Tavoy Morgan rolled the ball around the boards, Villela pounced on it, firing it past Sebastian Zeballos, who had dived in an effort to stop the ball from getting to the Harrisburg forward.
Jarred Phillips pulled one back for the MetroStars at the end of the first half, getting on the end of an impressive pass from Damion Graham before slotting the ball past the keeper, ensuring that the Heat's lead was just 3-2 after 30 minutes.
The Heat exploded for three goals in eight minutes to start the third quarter, as Nelson Santana, Ricardo Carvalho and Julian Escobar all found the back of the net.
Just when it seemed like the Heat were going to continue to run away with it, the MetroStars pulled off an unanticipated comeback, spearheaded by forward Damion Graham.
A few minutes after Escobar’s goal gave the Heat a 6-2 lead, David Velastegui scored a short-handed goal to bring the MetroStars within three goals after 45 minutes of play.
Enter Damion Graham...
Just 21 seconds into the fourth quarter, Graham had already found the back of the net, picking up the ball after it bounced off the boards, cutting inside and firing the shot over Heat goalkeeper Zach Haussler for his second goal of the game.
Graham wasn’t done there, as just 90 seconds later, he found the back of the net again, completing his hat trick with a nicely taken shot. It went under Haussler this time following a perfect pass from Mark Jankovic that went through the legs of a defender.
Graham STILL wasn’t done yet, as his fourth goal of the game, third of the quarter, came just 60 seconds after the last one. After a series of one-touch passes, Graham was in on goal and shot the ball along the ground. Haussler will probably think he should have saved the shot, but it hit the bottom of his leg and popped up into the roof of the net, tying the game at 6-6.
Graham also pulled out the famous shake and bake again, earning praise on Instagram from DeRo:
After Sebastian Zeballos, the MetroStars goalkeeper on the night, picked up a blue card for touching the ball with his hands outside the penalty area, but saved the penalty shot, Dylan Hundelt scored on the ensuing powerplay, giving the Heat a lead that they would not give up.
An insurance goal from Tom Mellor and an empty net goal from Daniel Villela sealed a 9-6 victory for Harrisburg, improving their record to 11-13. The MetroStars fell to a final record of 4-20.
Although it hasn’t been officially confirmed, the MetroStars said a couple of times at the end of the season that they will be back for a second go-around in 2019/20, most noticeably when they showed a video on the big screen at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre at the final home game where they explicitly said “see you next season.”
Watch this space (and my Twitter account) for any news and updates throughout the offseason and into the 2019/20 campaign.