Story and images by Erich Eichhorn (ISN)

March 30, 2014 Victoria, BC (ISN) – The division one Saanich Fusion FC defeated the second seed Cowichan FC 1-0 to take the prestigious Vancouver Island Soccer League Sir John Jackson Cup Soccer championship Sunday at Royal Athletic Park.

The Saanich Fusion FC D1 won their berth to the Cup final last Friday with a decisive 4-1 home win over Naniamo United after closing out the season with a 12-1-3 record. The Cowichan FC D1 nipping at their cleat heels would stand a close second with an 11-3-2 record at the end of regular league play, and enter the Cup championship defeating the Bays Liquor Plus D1 2-0. Cowichan FC has taken the cup three of the last four years.

Fusion’s Gian Luther kicks the ball away from Steve Scott of the Cowichan FC – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

It was sure to be a showdown as Cowichan has taken the cup final the last three times in four appearances, but the first place Saanich Fusion, along with their sharp shooter Patrick Nelson (18 goals on the season), were sure to try to put their mark in the history books in front of a packed, loud, RAP home crowd.

Cowichan FC’s Dan Cato would prove to be dangerous with the ball in the first half of the Jackson Cup – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

The first half would be a test of wills as both Saanich and Cowichan would test each goalkeep’s metal, but would fail to put the ball in the back of the net. Fusion would better Cowichan with a barrage of chances early in the game, but none would be closer to scoring than Cowichan’s Dan Cato.

Jesse Winter ( right ) and Mike Moon compete for possession of the ball– Erich Eichhorn image ( )

Cato, streaking down the wing, would beat his defender and launch a left-footed rocket of a shot that would narrowly miss the open top corner, hitting the crossbar to be denied the opening goal of the game. Cowichan would press back late in the half, testing the Fusion net minder Josh Menzies.

Fusion goalkeep Josh Menzies lunges to stop the ball. Menzies would be voted most valuable player of the championships – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

Both teams would play a controlled, offensive game throughout the second half, trading chances at both ends of the field. Saanich Fusion’s Cardin Davis would come close to stealing the game away from Cowichan with three minutes left in the game testing Cowichan goalkeeper, and Highlander coach Bob Stankov with a shot that would force Stankov to elevate and punch the ball away from crossing just under the bar.

Highlander import Tyler Hughes was instrumental in keeping the pressure on the Saanich Fusion team with dangerous corner kicks to the net – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

Stankov, only three games under his belt since his return to action after several years hiatus from on-field competition would comment about his return to form, “I’m immersed in the game on a daily basis with coaching my goalkeepers (for the Highlanders) and even though I haven’t performed all the movements in a pressure situation like this, when you’re around it all the time it’s not too hard to get back into it.” Regulation time would see both teams, evenly matched; end in a draw, and force extra time.

Patrick Nelson of the Saanich Fusion would score the games only goal in extra time to lift his team victory and the Jackson Cup championship – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

Fusion goalkeeper Josh Menzies would “stand on his head” in extra time, robbing Cowichan of numerous quality chances on corner kicks set up by Cowichan’s Tyler Hughes.

Gord Elliot brings the ball up the wing looking for someone to advance the ball to – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

Players and fans alike were most likely thinking about the possibility of penalty kicks to decide the game late in the 2nd extra frame when the Fusion’s top goal scorer on the season, Patrick Nelson, would find the ball on his foot and sprint down the left wing to challenge Cowichan’s Stankov. Stankov, coming too far out to challenge, would allow the fleet-footed Nelson to get around him to score what would eventually be the golden goal for the Fusion, and 1-0 win.

The Saanich Fusion and the Cowichan FC battled hard during Jackson Cup final action at Royal Athletic Park Sunday with the Fusion coming out on top 1-0 in extra time – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

When asked about his winning goal Nelson would say, “he ( Stankov) came way out at me and I wasn’t going to shoot from there, so I glanced up and then went around him for the goal. Both teams had lots chances at either end, our goalie and our defense played fantastic, and we’re just happy to get the one (goal) in the end.”

VISL’s top goal scorer in division one play, Patrick Nelson, celebrates another goal with teammates as Cowichan player in foreground acts out his displeasure on the go-ahead goal. – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

Saanich Fusion FC’s goalkeeper, Josh Menzies would be named most valuable player of the game.

Fusion fans dominated the stands at RAP Sunday afternoon to cheer on their team to victory – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

The Saanich Fusion FC D1, with Sunday’s win, earn a berth to the BC Championships in Burnaby Lake, May 10th

Cooper Barry of the Saanich Fusion accepts the Jackson Cup from VISL president Vince Greco – Erich Eichhorn image ( )