After seven years away from competitive soccer, goalkeeper Bob Stankov returned to Cowichan LMG for the Jackson Cup run, and helped his team to within a goal of its third Island championship in four years.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to continue that success in the Provincial Cup tournament. As Cowichan prepared for its opening-round game against West Coast FC, Stankov blew out his knee during practice last Thursday. Despite a valiant effort by Ben Robson in Saturday’s game, Cowichan ended up on the wrong side of a 3-0 score, and their season came to an end.
"We had to have an out player play in goal, and for a non-goalie, that’s pretty tough," LMG head coach Glen Martin said.
West Coast FC was the fourth seed out of the Fraser Valley, while Cowichan finished second on the Island.
"It was a team we could have beat," Martin said. "They’d be about fifth or sixth in our league."
Joel Wilson started the season as Cowichan’s keeper, but has been out for months with a concussion and wasn’t ready to replace Stankov. LMG had also called on Darian Achurch, from Cowichan’s Div. 2 team, at times during the season, but he wasn’t on the Provincial Cup roster. With nowhere else to turn, they had to put someone between the pipes. No one had previous experience as a keeper, so Robson volunteered.
"Most teams don’t have a field player who can play goalie," Martin noted. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t the same as having a regular goalie.
"They had no chances to score, but they scored three goals," Martin said.
It didn’t help that Cowichan couldn’t generate any offence.
"We had chances to score, and we didn’t score," Martin lamented.
Connor Crichton had perhaps Cowichan’s best chance to score early on, but lofted the ball over the crossbar.
LMG finished second in Division 1 of the Vancouver Island Soccer League to tie for their best position ever, reached the final of the Jackson Cup tournament for the fourth time in five years, and made provincials for the fifth year in a row.
A run of several successful years, however, has raised expectations for the team, and Martin wants to get to the next level.
"Overall, it was a good year, not a great year," he said. "We’re levelling off."
From individual perspectives, Cowichan had impressive seasons from throughout the lineup. Veteran Steve Scott and homegrown talent Crichton led the way with 10 goals each, while the team got strong comeback performances by Stu Barker and Brad Thorne. Tyler Hughes, Jesse Winter and Brad Archibald were again rocks on the back end. Young additions Robson and Colin Knight breathed life into the squad.
While the core remains strong, Martin plans to make some changes to the roster for next year. "It feels like to get to the next level, we have to try something different," he said.