LMG headed back to Jackson Cup final

Jesse Winter's goal propelled Cowichan LMG to the Jackson Cup final for the sixth time in the last seven years.

The player whose goal propelled Cowichan LMG to the Jackson Cup final for the sixth time in the last seven years won’t be able to play in the championship soccer game.

Playing on a foot he injured just 10 minutes earlier, Cowichan captain Jesse Winter headed in a corner kick in the 80th minute of last Saturday’s semifinal to give his team a 2-1 win over Saanich Fusion. X-rays the next day showed that the foot was injured, meaning Winter won’t be available for the April 3 final against Bays United.

Not certain of the extent of the injury at the time, he opted to ride the adrenaline through it. Adrenaline was high throughout the Cowichan roster on Saturday.

“It was probably the best game we’ve played all year,” head coach Glen Martin said.

From the outset, the game play was to push for the first goal, but that didn’t happen, as Saanich struck first at the 26 minute mark.

“We played well, we started well, but they got a kind of unfortunate goal against the flow,” Martin said.

Cowichan responded well, however, and got the tying goal 16 minutes later from the energetic Dan Cato, making his first start of the season, on a set piece from playmaker Tyler Hughes.

“That was a really big goal to tie it up before halftime,” Martin said.

Cowichan carried the momentum from Cato’s goal into the second half and never let up.

“We played a really strong second half,” Martin said. “We hemmed them in. We dominated play. They couldn’t generate any passing.”

Even after the ref added six and a half minutes of injury time, Saanich was unable to pull even.

“They didn’t have much left at the end,” Martin said.

It didn’t hurt that Cowichan had more fans at the game, or at least had the louder contingent.

“When we scored the go-ahead goal, the crowd was cheering, and it was like a home game,” Martin noted.

Cowichan’s goalie last Saturday wasn’t the one fans expected to see, but it was a familiar face: Scott Brown, who came in as an emergency replacement for last year’s Jackson Cup run, made a surprise appearance last Saturday, filling in for injured starter Sam Hutchison and his backup, Joel Wilson.

“He bailed us out last year, and he’s back in there again,” Martin said.

The victory was LMG’s first at Tyndall Park since 2012, and just their second win there in the last seven years. Last time Cowichan won at Tyndall was in a Jackson Cup semifinal, and the team they beat in the final that year was Bays United. Bays United won the other semifinal last weekend 2-1 over Westcastle United, setting up a chance for history to repeat itself.

“Hopefully it plays out the same way this year,” Martin said.

Cowichan held a slight edge in the season series with Bays. The teams played to a 2-2 tie at UVic on Oct. 23, and Cowichan won 2-1 in the rematch on Jan. 23, the first game at the new Williams Field turf. Paddy Nelson scored both goals in that game.

“They’re always really close games with Bays,” Martin noted.

The final at Royal Athletic Park on Sunday, April 3 will be Cowichan’s sixth Jackson Cup championship game in seven years. The team will be looking for its fourth win in that time.