Red Raiders coach Matt Zigulis’ message to sophomore forward Casey Carter before entering the game off the bench was to challenge for balls, bring intensity and offer a spark.
Carter responded, and the rest of his Bellingham teammates matched his work rate in a pivotal Northwest Conference match against Squalicum that displayed the young Red Raiders’ potential.
Carter logged two assists and a goal, Spencer Sumpter started off the scoring and Aaron Carter produced Bellingham’s final goal, as the Red Raiders earned a 3-1 league win on a rainy senior night Tuesday, April 12, at Civic Stadium.
“Every single player out there gave their heart for all 80 minutes,” Zigulis said. “The effort from every single player set us apart in that game, because it wasn’t easy.”
The win avenged an early season 1-0 nonconference defeat to Squalicum, and the three goals marked a season high for the Red Raiders (5-3-2, 4-2-0 NWC). The scoring display came against a Storm (6-2-1, 3-2-1 NWC) team that yielded only six goals before Tuesday.
Bellingham and Squalicum were playing their first game back from spring break. After taking an 11-day hiatus, both sides created some opportunities during a largely even first half, but the Red Raiders converted their best chance.
Bellingham took a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute when Sumpter buried a low liner from roughly 20 yards out past the left side of Squalicum goalkeeper Owen Davis-Bower. The goal came after tackles from Grant Rienstra and Aaron, and then Casey won a ball that popped out to Sumpter, who finished the opportunity.
The Red Raiders’ attack began asserting itself in the second half, creating several chances within a few minutes.
Casey put Bellingham in front 2-0 in the 61st minute after stealing a ball and sending a well-place shot over Davis-Bower’s head from 30 yards out.
Six minutes later Casey made a nice run down the left side before sending a cross into the box that Aaron calmly finished with a single touch.
“It shows how much potential we have,” said Zigulis of what the win meant. “When the gears are in the right spot, when everything is turning, I feel like we can compete with any team we play with.”
Kevin Smiley helped Squalicum prevent the shutout with a goal in the 77th minute.