The Victoria Vikes bolstered their playoff hopes at the expense of the UFV Cascades on Friday evening, picking up a 3-0 victory at MRC Sports Complex.
Michael Baart scored twice, Nick Graham added a single, Paulo Dait notched a pair of assists, and goalkeeper Maxwell Branyik-Gil earned a five-save shutout for the Vikes, who came in needing a result to stay alive in the Canada West playoff race. They improved to 6-7-1, leapfrogging the UNBC Timberwolves and UBC Okanagan Heat to move into the fourth and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division.
The Cascades, who were mathematically eliminated from post-season contention earlier in the week, fell to 4-8-3.
The UFV side wraps up its season on Saturday at home vs. the UBC Thunderbirds (6 p.m., MRC Sports Complex, Field 4), while the Vikes can lock up a playoff spot with a win at Trinity Western (7:15 p.m.).
“We didn’t have a chance of getting in (to the playoffs), and how we started the game kind of reflected that, and they were hungry and alive for it,” Cascades head coach Tom Lowndes analyzed. “We struggled in that first half, and I thought in the second half we came out in the first 10 or 12 minutes and looked really good.
“Again, the story of our season – we create chance after chance after chance, and we don’t score. And then they go down to the other end and kill the game off 3-0 with a goal that we should have dealt with a little bit better. The chances we had and the possession we had at times, it was on for us to score goals. That’s obviously something that we need to be better at.”
The Vikes broke the ice in the 13th minute – Isaac Koch whipped a cross in for Baart, and he rose to head it home with authority.
Both teams had their chances as the half wore on. Branyik-Gil made a great save off UFV’s Spencer Williams from close range off a corner, and at the other end, Cascades keeper Alex Skrzeta leaped to deny Baart’s drive from the top of the box which was labeled for the top corner.
In the 42nd minute, though, the Vikes doubled their lead on a top-corner strike from Nick Graham. Then, in the 61st, Baart notched his second of the night, getting on the end of Dait’s long cross and heading it in from close range.
The Cascades had some promising moments offensively, as evidenced by their 7-1 edge in corners earned. But all too often, no UFV player was able to get a touch on the ball as it was whipped into the box.
Cascades defender Sammy Kajzerek came close to getting his team on the board in the 74th minute, but his header went just over the crossbar. Later on, Kajzerek sent a cross in that Gurmaan Jhaj rose up for, but Branyik-Gil arrived just on time and plucked the ball virtually off the top of his head.
“We’ll freshen it up,” Lowndes said, looking ahead to Saturday’s season finale vs. UBC. “We’ll bring in some young players to give them some experience. Obviously it doesn’t mean anything to us (in terms of the standings), but we want to go out and put a good performance in.”