Grizzlies avenge 2015 defeat and advance to provincials in thriller

The U17 Gold Grizzlies are returning to the provincial B Cup championships this year after a thrilling win over Prospect Lake

After a heartbreaking loss to the same team last year, the Cowichan Valley Soccer Association U17 Gold Grizzlies is returning to the provincial B Cup championships this year after a thrilling win over Prospect Lake at the Williams Field turf on Valentine’s Day.

The 2015 showdown between Cowichan and Prospect Lake went all the way to penalty kicks, and the story was the same this year, surprising no one.

“After eking out a narrow 1-0 game against the same team three weeks ago, we knew the game would be close,” Grizzlies coach Al Longair said.

The Cowichan players got off to a fast start in the Feb. 14 game, and just missed some early scoring chances.

“They kept putting on the pressure, but the Prospect Lake keeper was superb at parrying our shots” Longair said.

Although the Grizzlies held the edge in possession, a quick counter-attack goal allowed Prospect Lake to pull ahead late in the first half. Prospect Lake carried that momentum into the second half, and put pressure on the Cowichan defence, but were unable to get through.

It wasn’t until the last five minutes of the game that Tyler Leech was able to muscle the ball into the net to knot the score at 1-1. The Grizzlies pushed for the go-ahead goal, but it didn’t materialize, and the game went to extra time.

The Grizzlies dominated the two 15-minute extra-time sessions, and had several chances that either narrowly missed their targets or were stopped by the Prospect Lake keeper.

“Late in the second overtime half, Liam Thibodeau-Perry got his foot onto on a beautiful cross that looked to be the winner,” Longair said. “Unfortunately, his shot bounced off the underside of the crossbar and bounced out.”

After a frantic finish, the game went to penalty kicks. The Grizzlies had been practicing their penalty kicks, and all five shooters scored. Unfortunately, the first five Prospect Lake shooters also scored. The sixth Cowichan shooter also found the back of the net, and Prospect Lake’s keeper stepped up to shoot. Grizzlies goalie Ty Benson, who had been subbed into the game specifically for his penalty shot prowess, made the save.

“There were many heroes on the team,” Longair said. “With a full team roster of skilled players, we’re very fortunate to have so many committed and outstanding players. It’s an impressive group of young men; it took every one of the 18 team members to reach this season’s goal.”

The Grizzlies will play for the Coastal B Cup in Aldergrove in April and May. The provincial tournament is set for July 7-10 in Vancouver.