The 2022 Voyageur’s Cup kicked off on a sunny Tuesday night in Guelph, Ontario. Before an announced crowd of 1700 at the University of Guelph’s Alumni Stadium, CPL side HFX Wanderers came away with a 2-0 victory over L1O club, Guelph United.
The game’s opening five minutes were a rather tepid affair, with both sides sizing up unfamiliar opponents. However, after trading chances in the sixth and seventh minutes, the game began to decidedly tilt in the favour of the visitors from Halifax. Despite fielding some recent CPL players in former York United striker Jace Kotsopoulos and former Forge FC forward Marcel Zajac, Guelph United found the going tough, especially in the midfield, where Wanderers’ captain Andre Rampersad absolutely dominated all evening.
Moreover, the HFX Wanderers dominated Guelph United in both possession, 65% to 35%, and shots, 22 (10) to 5 (1). If not for the heroics of United goalkeeper Svyatik Artemenko, and some stout defending from centre-back Marco Maletic, the result could have been much worse for the hosts. Conversely, Halifax strikers Cory Bent and Akeem Garcia squandered several scoring opportunities inside the Guelph box.
Halifax opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with a somewhat generous penalty call that was converted by Akeem Garcia. Artemenko guessed correctly but Garcia’s strike was placed hard and low to beat the outstretched hands of the Guelph keeper. After the first half, Guelph could count themselves fortunate to still be in the tie.
The second half began with a Guelph substitution at central midfield. Enter Laryea. No, not the former TFC star Laryea, but his younger brother Reggie. However, Guelph’s struggles in the middle of the park did not significantly improve. In the 59th minute, Guelph captain Kotsopoulos, who cut a lonely and frustrated figure as the sole striker in Guelph coach Keith Mason’s side, came off, possibly due to some calf tightness.
Shortly thereafter, Halifax won another of their 11 corners in the game. In a set play straight out of the training pitch, the kick was directed outside the box to the lightly marked former TFC prospect Aiden Daniels, whose frozen rope strike bulged the twine just beneath the cross bar. There was little Artemenko could do but pick the ball out of the net.
With Halifax now up by two goals, Guelph’s spirit began to visibly flag as the CPL side sought to close out the match. However, in the 78th minute, a quick counter attack down the left side saw Guelph carve out a chance inside the box, where Marcel Zajac was brought down by the knee of HFX defender Mateo Restrepo. In a bizarre turn of events, no penalty was given, but rather Zajac was booked for simulation. In the end, HFX would come away with the 2-0 win and punch their ticket to the quarter-finals.
Victory meant coach Stephen Hart and his HFX Wanderers now move on to the 2022 Canadian Championship quarter-finals, with a home match against MLS side Toronto FC up next.