Lakehill managed to tie the game at Braefoot Park last Sunday with 30 seconds left in injury time, but Cowichan replied in overtime and ultimately prevailed 3-2.
“All the games we’ve played against them have been tight games,” Hughes said. “There’s not a lot of margin for error for either team. I think our guys wanted it a little more.”
Cowichan was missing five players who were either injured or on vacation, but the team’s depth shone through. United scored first, with Logan Kits converting a penalty shot after Luke Armstrong was taken down in the box. Less than 15 minutes later, Lakehill got the ball past Braeden Nash, who made several big saves in the early going, and the teams were tied 1-1 at halftime.
Cowichan started to pour on the pressure and take control in the second half, and Kits made it 2-1. Lakehill’s goalie was injured with about 20 minutes left in the game and replaced by a player. The ref called for six minutes of injury time, and Lakehill scored the tying goal around the five minute and 30 second mark.
“It’s not easy giving up a goal right at the end of the game,” Hughes commented. “You’re dejected; you were 30 seconds away from winning, and now they’ve got the momentum.”
United withstood the disappointment and played well in the two 10-minute overtime periods. Liam Thibodeau-Perry scored on a nice individual effort halfway through the first, and Cowichan held Lakehill off the rest of the way. Throughout the game and into overtime, Cowichan’s Brennan Shaver did a good job shutting down Michael Henman, Lakehill’s top player, who sits third in the U21 scoring race.
“It was a real team performance,” Hughes said. “Everyone played a good match. Everyone put in a solid shift. It wasn’t the most exciting game; we didn’t play great soccer, but it was a real workmanlike performance.”
Cowichan’s next cup game is on March 11 against Prospect Lake at Layritz Park. Their next league game is at home to Bays on 2:15 p.m. this Sunday. Cowichan has beaten Bays both times the teams have met this season.
Cowichan could still win the league, mathematically speaking, if they can win their last two games and both Mid Island and Lakehill lose their remaining matches. A top-two finish would satisfy Hughes, as it would guarantee Cowichan a spot in the provincial championships.
“If we can’t get second, the only other way is to get to the final of the cup,” he said. “Each league game is the biggest game of the season until the next league game.”