Jhaj, Weir spark five-goal outburst as Cascades blow out Heat

The UFV Cascades had something to prove against the UBC Okanagan Heat, and they certainly made their point.

The Cascades exploded for three goals during a sensational five-minute stretch early in the first half, and cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Heat in Canada West men’s soccer action at MRC Sports Complex on Friday evening.

The Heat had knocked off the Cascades 1-0 in Kelowna back on Aug. 28 – one of just two losses for the UFV side to date.

In Friday’s rematch, Gurmaan Jhaj and Brady Weir drained any suspense from the proceedings during a dominant first half. They notched two goals apiece, with Weir adding an assist. Jun Won Choi chipped in with a goal and an assist as the hosts improved to 5-2-1, good for second place in the Pacific Division. Seventh-place UBCO fell to 2-5-4.

“We looked really, really positive, we looked really bright,” Cascades head coach Tom Lowndes enthused. “The minute we scored one and two, the confidence was flowing through us and we were able to put some more away.

“I thought we were really good offensively. Caused all sorts of problems, and could have scored a few more. We looked absolutely rampant at times, and it was nice to see them play at that pace and that tempo. We’ve been like that in a few games, but for us to take those chances and score a boatload of goals was obviously nice.”

The game featured a couple of notable statistical feats for the Cascades. Jhaj’s brace gives him nine goals in CW play, setting a new team record for goals in a season. The previous record of eight had been shared by Sasa Plavsic (2012) and Spencer Schmidt (2007).

The five-goal outburst, meanwhile, tied for the second-highest output for UFV men’s soccer in CW play; the team record for goals in a game was set Oct. 27, 2012 in an 8-0 win over the Winnipeg Wesmen.

“I’m really proud of him,” Lowndes said of Jhaj, who leads Canada West in goals (nine) and points (11). “He’s worked his socks off, and he’s a big leader on the team.

“We’ve always struggled to score goals, and to have someone like him come in and have a position change (from holding midfielder to forward) and take to it so naturally has been fantastic.”

Weir created the first goal, making a dangerous foray into the box and drawing a foul. Jhaj stepped to the spot and hammered a rising shot into the left side of the net to give his team the lead in the seventh minute.

Four minutes later, Jhaj was at it again – he took a feed from Weir, ventured into the box and launched a rocket that found the top corner inside the far post.

Weir got a goal of his own in the 12th minute. Choi crossed the ball over to Weir, and he took a touch before blasting home a similarly stunning strike.

The Cascades had to wait a relative eternity for their next goal – it came in the 27th minute, and Choi did the honours. Off Anthony Vega’s corner, Sahib Sidhu’s initial effort was stopped, but the ball deflected directly to Choi and he volleyed it in.

Luke Warkentin got the Heat on the board in first-half injury time, heading in a cross from Christian Taylor, but the Cascades answered right back. Weir notched his second of the night, volleying home Andrew Peat’s cross.

The second half was uneventful as the Cascades slowed the pace of the game, but UFV goalkeeper David Hicks provided a huge highlight in the 90th minute, coming up with a lunging stop on Hamish Walde’s penalty kick.

The Cascades are back in action on Saturday evening, hosting the Thompson Rivers WolfPack (6:30 p.m., MRC Sports Complex). The Heat, meanwhile, visit the Trinity Western Spartans (7:15 p.m.).

Jun Won Choi celebrates with Anthony Vega after scoring in the 27th minute.

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