Cowichan 49ers striker Matt Arnett connects on a penalty kick against Cordova Bay on Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan 49ers lock up second place, provincial berth

Steelheads still in the running for third

The Cowichan 49ers clinched second place in the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s masters A division and a berth in the provincial tournament, while the Cowichan Steelheads remained in contention to finish third in the division.

The 49ers won 4-1 over the Cordova Bay Bobcats at the Sherman Road turf on Saturday evening, while the Steelheads edged Saanich Fusion Albion Forest 2-1 at Tyndall turf.

Ryan Fusick, Matt Arnett, Darcy Penner and George Thomas did the scoring for the 49ers, while Jeff Mann stepped up as goalkeeper in the absence of Chris Muller, who is sidelined for the rest of the season with an injury.

“He did great,” 49ers player-manager Neall Rowlings said of Mann. “And showed he was a team player no matter what.”

The Bobcats goalie was strong as well, but couldn’t fend off Cowichan’s powerful attack, which included Fusick and Arnett replacing Rowlings and Barker in the striker roles.

This is the first time in their three years of existence that the 49ers haven’t been locked into a battle for first place at this point in the season as UVic Alumni have already clinched top spot.

“It’s bittersweet,” Rowlings said. “UVic has earned it and we get to play as underdogs. We play them next week and even though the standings won’t change, we are not OK with their perfect record of all wins.”

The Niners visit UVic this Friday, then return home on Feb. 15 to face the Steelheads in a play-in game for the Tony Grover Cup tournament.

Dennis Atkins scored both goals for the Steelheads, and it wasn’t until the 78th minute that Saanich broke the shutout.

“Our team was composed and got the job done,” Steelheads player Curtis Flynn reported. “The team has been dealing with many injuries and every game a different player has stepped up to pick up the slack. We are a deep squad and it has led to our success. This week we had standout performances from Dennis Atkins, who scored both goals, and Jesse Davis. Jesse has been excellent this season, working hard and playing a lot of minutes in the midfield. This game was no different as he made his presence felt with some bone crunching-tackles.”

The Steelheads are one point back of Castaways Juniors for third in the division, with a game in hand. They play at home this Saturday against Vic West at 8 p.m.

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