Jhaj nets hat trick, grabs Canada West goal-scoring lead in 3-0 win over Cougars

Gurmaan Jhaj scored a hat trick in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Mount Royal. (UFV Athletics file photo)

A memorable performance by Gurmaan Jhaj powered the University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team to an impressive road win over the Mount Royal Cougars on Saturday afternoon in Calgary.

Jhaj, a fourth-year forward from Aldergrove, B.C., scored all three goals in a 3-0 triumph which boosted the Cascades’ record to 3-1-1 in Canada West play. Jhaj’s scoring spree also left him in sole possession of the conference goal-scoring lead with five – all of them coming in the past two games.

“He was magnificent today,” UFV head coach Tom Lowndes said of Jhaj. “He was quality, causing havoc for their defenders all day long. He got the ball in his feet and ran at them, and he was also willing to do the dirty work. It was just a really great performance.”

Jhaj wasted little time opening the scoring – in the fourth minute of play, he picked up the ball about 30 yards from goal, beat a pair of Cougars defenders, and slotted the ball home from inside the 18-yard box.

He doubled the Cascades’ lead in the 37th. Ryan Donald’s cross found Jhaj at the back post, and he controlled the ball with his chest before volleying it home.

Jhaj completed the hat trick in the 69th, making good on a penalty kick after Trevor Zanatta was hauled down in the box. Mount Royal fell to 2-3-0.

As critical as Jhaj’s scoring has been for the Cascades of late, the team’s defensive performance has been equally impressive. The UFV side has surrendered just two goals in its five Canada West games (with three clean sheets), leaving them tied with the UBC Thunderbirds for the fewest goals-against in the conference. It’s a marked contrast to last season, when the Cascades allowed 31 goals in 16 outings – fourth-most in CW.

“That was one of our big goals this season – we had to be better defensively,” Lowndes said. “It comes down to attitude, it comes down to work rate, it comes down to pride in not conceding goals. Our players are working as hard as they can to limit the other team’s chances, and when you do that, you’re going to stay in a lot of games and hopefully win games.

“We were rampant in the first 20 minutes today, and it was a good shift from the boys in a tough place to play. The boys were fantastic, right from the start to the end, every one of them.”

The Cascades wrap up their road swing with a stern test Sunday afternoon, taking on the U SPORTS No. 8-ranked Alberta Golden Bears in Edmonton (1:15 p.m. Pacific / 2:15 p.m. Mountain, CanadaWest.tv).

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