Cascades blank Heat to earn first conference win

The University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team used its home opener as a springboard to its first victory of the young Canada West season, shutting out the UBC Okanagan Heat 2-0 on Friday evening at MRC Sports Complex.

Brady Weir got the ball rolling early for the hosts, opening the scoring in the second minute of the game. Rookie winger Charlie Lovell gave the Cascades an insurance marker in the 59th minute, and goalkeeper Alex Skrzeta backstopped UFV’s first clean sheet of the campaign.

The Cascades (1-1-1) and Heat (1-2-0) are back in action tomorrow, albeit facing different opponents. UFV hosts the Thompson Rivers WolfPack (8 p.m., MRC Sports Complex), while the Heat visit the Trinity Western Spartans (7:15 p.m.).

“We were good tonight,” UFV head coach Tom Lowndes said afterward. “I thought we looked rampant on the counterattack and caused them a lot of problems, and I thought we defended really well. To get a clean sheet – the first clean sheet of the year – was massive as well, and I thought the boys put a great shift in defensively and limited them to some long-range efforts. I’m just really proud of the way we defended, and also how we took our chances.”

Weir linked up with Jun Won Choi to give the Cascades a lead shortly after the opening kick-off. Choi, from the left wing, sent a ball across the front of goal to Weir, and the third-year midfielder from Pitt Meadows placed his ensuing shot perfectly: off the far post and in.

Cascades rookies Parman Minhas and Spencer Williams battle for the ball.

Heat keeper Mitch McCaw, a Canada West all-star last season, kept his team within a goal for the next 55 minutes bridging halftime. Most notably, early in the second half, he dove to parry a hard shot from Lovell who had come streaking down the right wing.

But Lovell found the range shortly thereafter, rising to head home a terrific cross from fellow rookie Parman Minhas.

It was a nice moment for Lovell, who came all the way from Billericay, England to join the Cascades this fall but missed the team’s first two road games due to strep throat.

“It’s an amazing first game, first goal,” he marveled afterward. “To be fair, it (the ball) surprised me as it came over – I thought one of their defenders was going to get it. Then I just hit it, and next thing I know it’s in the back of the net and I’m running off in a celebration.”

All eight of the Cascades’ conference wins last season were via clean sheet, and Friday’s effort represented a return to form after UFV opened the campaign with a 1-0 loss at UBC and a 2-2 draw at UVic. The Heat did not register a shot on target.

“That’s something we talked about after the first weekend – getting back to being stingy defensively and limiting the chances teams have on us,” Lowndes said. “For us to give up three goals in two games (vs. UBC and UVic) was not good enough. I’m proud of how we defended tonight . . . and the work rate was first-class.”

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