October 14, 2007 CSL St Catharines Wolves vs Canadian Lions (from St Catharines Standard)

Wolves advance to semis on penalty kicks; Goalkeeper Perri stands tall in playoff win over Lions

Game in and game out this season, the St. Catharines Roma Wolves have counted on goalkeeper Claudio Perri to stand tall - and not just because he's 6-foot-5.

The veteran Wolves player was the talk of Club Roma Sunday afternoon. His stop on Canadian Lions' shooter Lovemore Ncube in the 14th round of penalty kicks sent the Wolves to a Canadian Soccer League semifinal game next weekend in Toronto.

The two clubs had battled through 90 minutes of regulation time and two 15-minute overtime periods without scoring a goal, largely in part because of Perri. He made a number of big saves in regulation, was forced to shoot in the penalty-kick round (he scored) and put the exclamation point on the win with the big stop, diving to his right to stop the Lions shooter.

"You have to be patient with penalty shots in that situation," the Hamilton native said, still trying to catch his breath amidst his teammates' jubilation. "It's a guessing game, but it's reading eyes and reading hips.

"I guessed right a couple of times and I just couldn't get to (the ball). I've faced a lot of penalty shots in my day - I'm not scared when it comes to penalty shots. I have a lot of confidence in myself."

He was also solid during the opening 90 minutes, especially early in the second half when, at least twice, he needed all his lanky frame to stop tough shots by the Lions' Evan Milward and Milos Vucinic.

"I said at the beginning of the game that teamwork, our work ethic and Claudio have gotten us to where we are, so keep riding that," said coach James McGillivray, who may have been the calmest person outside a raucous Wolves' dressing room. "I said before the game and at halftime, no matter what happens, we've worked hard together, we've learned a lot and let's see how far we go."

They will go to a semifinal, at the very least.

It was symbolic that after the game, player after player took a turn jumping on Perri's back. He hasn't exactly been carrying the team, but he's had a big part in its 12-4-6 record and second-place finish overall, first in the National Division.

"That's what it's about," veteran Carlo Arghittu added. "Have a strong keeper at the back and we've got guys who look out for each other and we have the chemistry in the playoffs.

"He made some big stops during the game that kept us in there."

Ironically, it was another Perri, Claudio's older brother Dino, who backstopped the Wolves to their last playoff championship in 2001. They haven't made the playoffs since then.

"I give all the credit to the players and coaches - we all stuck together, fought as a team.... It was just teamwork, man," Perri said of the turnaround.

"We started by bonding a bit with the Italia Shooters - that little tussle - and we played as a unit. We went to Montreal, we tied and we went out and had a good time. We jelled as a team after those two games."

So what exactly was the big keeper thinking after Stefan Kamendy beat Willis on the team's 14th shot?

"Well, after they told me I had to shoot I was a little nervous, but after it came down to that last shot, I was just thinking to myself, 'Save one, Claude, save one.' "

And so he did and the team moves on. And, Arghittu said, it doesn't matter who they play next weekend.

"We can compete with any team in Toronto," he said. "We don't fear anybody right now.

"We just want to continue this streak in the playoffs."

It's a new experience for the big keeper, although Arghittu has been through the good and bad times with the club.

"I feel unbelievable; I'm on Cloud 9," Perri said. "I've never been in the playoffs. Dino was (in goal) the last time they won it here, so I'm just trying to do the same thing.

"I want to win something here."

McGillivray also likes his club's chances: "I've said now for eight weeks, I like our chances in one-goal games."

For Perri, the feeling just keeps getting better and he wants it to continue.

"When it comes down to it, I don't like losing very much," he said. jwallace@stcatharinesstandard.ca

The Scoop
Wolves 1 Lions 0 (penalty kicks)

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