Vikes one win away from CIS national championship berth

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Fourth-year midfielder Cam Hundal in action last Sunday in the Canada West quarter-final vs. Fraser Valley

by Ali Lee, 

(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C. – Following an 8-1-3 regular season record and a recent 2-1 win over the Fraser Valley Cascades, the University of Victoria Vikes men’s soccer team are now just one win away from a spot at the CIS national championship. The Vikes men have not appeared at nationals since they last hosted and won in 2011.

This past weekend, Oct. 26, the Vikes dropped the visiting Cascades in the Canada West quarter-final in a dramatic finish. Fifth-year striker Cameron Stokes scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season in injury time to punch the Vikes’ ticket to the conference Final Four hosted this weekend, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, in Saskatoon, Sask. Stokes also scored the game’s opening goal in the 34th minute.

This weekend the Vikes will get their first look at the Prairie Division. This is the first year that the Canada West has operated the Pacific and Prairie Divisions completely separate from each other until the Final Four cross-overs. The UBC Thunderbirds will enter this weekend as the top seed from the Pacific following a 9-2-1 regular season record. The T-Birds will face off with Calgary (9-3), while the Vikes will play hosts and Prairie Division top seed Saskatchewan (9-1-2).

The Huskies cruised over Winnipeg, 5-1, in their quarter-final on Oct. 26. Veteran striker Brett Levis buried two goals, while the Huskies out-shot the Wesmen 30-5. Levis was the regular season scoring leader with nine goals, while Victoria’s Stokes trailed with eight. Huskies forward David Brown also tallied eight goals in the season.

The Vikes have a potent offence to support Stokes’ finishing efforts. Fellow striker and rookie Michael Baart started the majority of the season and scored four goals, while fourth years Cam Hundal and Craig Gorman have been critical playmakers in midfield.

Defenders Alex Redpath, Rhyse Harnden and Adam Ravenhill have been outstanding all season stepping up, winning balls in the air and maintaining composure to distribute from the back. Third-year keeper Noah Pawlowski has stood tall between the pipes boasting a .800 save percentage in regular season play and making several critical stops in the Vikes’ quarter-final win.

Wilson has no shortage of talent on this Vikes squad as his deep bench allows for the timely offensive sparks ofDominic Colantonio or Paulo Dait, while the midfield can be bolstered at any time by rookie Tarnvir Bhandal, seniorCraig Taylor or third year Sam Prette.

The Vikes will have a tough match up against Saskatchewan, who they have not faced since this time last year. In the 2013 Canada West Final Six, the Vikes lost 2-1 in the semifinals after Levis buried the game-winner in injury time. In 2013 conference play the Vikes tied 2-2 on Oct. 12 and their last win against the Huskies was in 2012, on Sept. 29, in conference play.

Entering this weekend UBC are ranked No. 2 on the CIS Top-10 polls, while Saskatchewan rank No. 4, Victoria are No. 6 and Calgary are unranked.

The Vikes will play at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time on Oct. 31. The other semifinal between UBC and Calgary will play at 1 p.m. Winners will play for Canada West gold at 1 p.m. on Nov. 1, while the bronze-medal match will happen at 10:30 a.m. Winners of both semifinals will automatically earn a spot at the CIS national championship hosted at the University of PEI in Charlottetown from Nov. 6-9. All games of the Canada West Final Four will be webcasted with live stats and video at http://canadawest.tv.

CANADA WEST FINAL FOUR SCHEDULE
All matches played at Field 7 in PotashCorp Park (Saskatoon, Sask.)

Thursday, Oct. 30
7:30 p.m. Canada West Awards Presentation

Friday, Oct. 31
10:30 a.m. – Calgary (Prairie #2) vs. UBC (Pacific #1)
2:00 p.m. – Victoria (Pacific #2) vs. Saskatchewan (Prairie #1)

Saturday, Nov. 1
10:30 a.m. Bronze Medal Match
1:00 p.m. Gold Medal Match

All times listed above are in Pacific Time.

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