If Cowichan United and Cowichan Red Arrow were any more closely matched, their McGavin Cup quarterfinal match might still be going on.
The U21 and Div. 3A soccer teams squared off at the Sherman Road turf on Monday night. Knotted at 1-1 after 90 minutes, they went to penalty kicks, and it took nine shooters for United to finally knock off Red Arrow.
“It was a pretty dramatic, eventful game,” United coach Tyler Hughes said. “It’s always fun to play against a team in our own club.”
Addison Kits opened the scoring for United on a screamer up the middle from 30 or 35 yards out, but Carl Bjarnason replied almost immediately for Red Arrow, and the score was 1-1 at halftime.
“We came in with a new formation and a plan to attack and pressure the U21s,” Red Arrow coach Levi Delahunt said. “Dealing with injuries from the weekend we were limited on our bench. We knew the kids were going to be fast, but we wanted to counter their speed by being defensively responsible and having multiple supporting options.”
Red Arrow pressed in the second half, but United held them off, thanks in large part to some big saves by Braeden Nash.
“He was playing U16 Gold a year ago,” Hughes said of his young keeper. “He’s been fantastic for us against the other U21 teams and the men’s teams we’ve played in the McGavin Cup.”
A red card put Red Arrow down a man with 20 minutes left to play, but the team kept working. Bjarnason, Red Arrow’s Player of the Game, earned a late penalty kick and hit the post, followed by Gabe Joe missing an open net.
The teams continued to be well-matched in penalty kicks. Nash stopped Red Arrow’s ninth shooter, and Nic Fusick, at 15 United’s youngest player, made good on his attempt, getting a rare ball past Red Arrow keeper Tim den Hartigh.
United will move on to the McGavin Cup semifinals, and should know their draw soon. Less concerned with results, Hughes is just happy to see his team performing well early in the season.
Both United and Red Arrow also earned ties in their league games last weekend.
At home on Sunday, United managed a 2-2 draw with the Mid Isle Mariners, who won their U21 league and cup last year, and reached the provincial semifinals. Cowichan went up 2-0 on goals by Logan Kits and Michael Fusick, but Mid Isle came back to tie it before halftime. The score held up through the final whistle.
“It was a pretty fast-paced game,” Hughes said. “They started strong, but it took us a bit to get into it. We were a bit nervous at the start. We were playing against a good team, for sure. It was probably a fair result, all things considered.”
Nash made some big saves for Cowichan in the second half, and Brennan Shaver was named Player of the Game.
“He takes the ferry over from Saltspring Island for every practice and game,” Hughes said of Shaver. “He’s been a good addition, for sure.”
Red Arrow played to a scoreless tie on the road against Vic West on Saturday, thanks to another standout performance by Player of the Game den Hartigh, while Doug Nestor anchored the defence and Mike Bellefleur injected energy as a second-half sub.
“We battled hard throughout the game and were unlucky not to score,” player-coach Brook Lisson said. “We had five injuries during the game which gave some others a lot of opportunity. A good result on a tough pitch.”
Red Arrow will play host to FC Sagres at the Sherman Road turf this Saturday at 4 p.m. United has the weekend off.