The University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team earned its seventh clean sheet of the season on Saturday, blanking the UNBC Timberwolves 2-0 at MRC Sports Complex.
In the Canada West regular-season finale for both teams, the Cascades got goals from Justin Sekhon and Jassi Mann, plus seven saves from David Hicks to improve to 8-6-2 on the season, good for third place in the Pacific Division.
UFV will be in Calgary for the first round of the playoffs next weekend, but their opponent has yet to be determined. They’ll be facing either the Calgary Dinos or the Mount Royal Cougars, both of whom have games on Sunday to determine second place in the Prairie Division.
The Timberwolves, meanwhile, fell to 4-10-2, which leaves them seventh in the Pacific and outside the Canada West playoff picture.
Both of the Cascades’ goal-scorers marked unique milestones on Saturday. Sekhon was one of five graduating players who were honoured in a pregame Senior Night ceremony – James Najman, Sahib Phagura, Connor MacMillan and Sukh Dhaliwal were the others – and he made sure the final home game of his career would be a memorable one. Just before halftime, the midfielder from Abbotsford, B.C. got his head on the end of a cross from Ryan Donald and sent the ball past UNBC keeper Mitch McFarlane for his fifth goal of the season.
“It meant a lot, scoring in my last home game here, in front of the fans, in front of my family and in front of the boys,” Sekhon said. “Before the start of the game, I felt like something was happening – something inside. I was going to score today.”
Mann is at the opposite end of his career – the rookie forward from Surrey, B.C. got his first career Canada West goal in the 50th minute with a right-footed finish off a cross from Brady Weir.
“We’ve talked about the senior players and what they’ve done for the program, and yeah, it was nice to see them contribute, as well as the younger players,” UFV head coach Tom Lowndes said. “We’ve got some really good young players coming through, and I think there’s some exciting times ahead for those younger players. But the oldies aren’t done just quite yet. We’ve got a playoff game next week that we’re going to go and try to win, and we’ll go from there.”
Hicks was full value for his third clean sheet of the campaign – he had a couple of tough saves in the late going, including a leaping effort in the 77th minute to punch Tofa Fakunle’s rising shot over the bar.
“I was pleased with the way we came out tonight,” Lowndes said. “All the senior guys started, and I thought we had a good first half – we got the ball down and we moved it well.
“I thought we were full value for being up 1-0 at halftime, but same scenario as last night (when UNBC rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit and earn a 1-1 draw). We wanted to make sure we came out in the second half flying, and I thought we did. We made some changes, played some younger players, and I was really impressed with their play. To finish the game with five players in their first year of eligibility was a big thing. We didn’t really skip a beat, so that was big for us tonight.”