LMG surprises Saanich in shutout

Going into their game last Friday, Cowichan LMG was preparing for a tough, close game.

Going into their game last Friday against another one of the top teams in Division 1 of the Vancouver Island Soccer League, Cowichan LMG was preparing for a tough, close game. That’s what they got, although the score doesn’t suggest it.

“We weren’t expecting a 5-0 win against Saanich Fusion,” head coach Glen Martin said. “But our goaltender was better than theirs, and we took our chances better than they took their chances.

“It didn’t really feel like a 5-0 win. They felt like the best team we’ve played so far. It felt like a 2-0 or 3-0 win. It didn’t seem like a 5-0 wipeout.”

Cowichan opened the scoring early on, when Jordan De Graf worked a give-and-go with Paddy Nelson and scored in the fourth minute, but Saanich actually had the first good chance of the game, lofting the ball over the net just two minutes in.

After De Graf’s goal, the game went back and forth until Cowichan striker Cooper Barry fought his way in close to score his 10th of the season in the 35th minute to take the league scoring lead.

“He did a lot of hard work for that goal,” Martin said.

Josh Cuthbert added his fifth of the year three minutes later on a mistake by the Saanich goalkeeper, and Cowichan led 3-0 at halftime.

“It didn’t feel like a 3-0 game,” Martin said. “We just made the most of our chances, and their goalie was shaky on the whole day.”

Martin kept his troops vigilant, though, knowing that if Saanich scored the next goal, they would be right back in it. At 68 minutes, Nelson scored his 10th of the year to tie Barry for the scoring lead, pretty much sealing up the win for Cowichan at that point. Nelson scored again in the 85th minute to edge past Barry for the Div. 1 scoring lead.

In goal, Sam Hutchison was busier than usual, but was up for the challenge and recorded his sixth clean sheet of the season, also the best total in the league.

Prior to last weekend, the LMG roster was bolstered by the arrival of a trio of players from Vancouver Island University: Andres Algarin and A.J. Kambere came back to Cowichan, where they played club soccer last year, and were joined by newcomer Tyler Leonard.

Cowichan continues to sit first in the standings with 23 points, four more than second-place Bays United, who lost to Nanaimo last weekend, and six more than third-place Comox.

This Friday, LMG will begin the second half of the season with a home game against Westcastle at 8 p.m., in what is supposed to be the team’s last game in Ladysmith before the new Sherman Road turf opens later this month. Cowichan beat Westcastle 4-0 in the season opener, but Martin isn’t banking on a repeat of that result this go-round.

“Westcastle has improved lately, so it should be a good game,” he said.