By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s field hockey team hosted the UBC Thunderbirds for two games of premier action on Jan. 24. Despite losing out 5-0 in their earlier match up of the day the young Vikes battled back to win 3-2 and ultimately pass the T-Birds in the nine-team standings. The Vikes are now 3-7, while UBC are 2-5-2.
The Canadian senior men’s national team’s current tour in South Africa leveled the playing fields as the Thunderbirds were without stand outs Paul Wharton, Matthew Sarmento and Gordie Johnston. Veteran Vikes midfielder Brenden Bissett was also on tour with the trio of T-Birds representing Canada.
The Thunderbirds showed their ability to capitalize in the earlier of the two games winning by a dominating 5-0 score line. It was the second game though that showed more even play between the two sides as scoring opportunities in both ends arose early on.
In the eighth minute Parm Sahota set up Connor Martin off a free hit just outside the UBC circle. Martin drove the baseline and slotted the ball in from a sharp angle to give the Vikes a 1-0 lead.
The Thunderbirds responded well earning a penalty corner just after the Vikes’ goal. Vikes post man Alex Smith saved a rocket drag flick on the line with his body resulting a UBC penalty stroke. The shot was taken from the spot and rung off the cross bar to leave the score still 1-0 for the Vikes.
Adjustments to the Vikes’ penalty corner defence paid off as they were able to fend off a wave of UBC corners and keep the score in their favour entering the break.
In the second half UBC increased their pressure but the Vikes’ defence stood strong, anchored by Amardeep Sidhu, Riley Tringham and Martin. Sidhu sent a long aerial pass to team mate Prabh Sahotawho out-muscled his check to drive the right sideline and gain a circle entry. Sahota’s blasted a cross through traffic and rookie Chris Lee expertly redirected the ball past the UBC keeper. This was Lee’s first goal for the Vikes and it came at a timely moment, lifting the Vikes 2-0.
It wasn’t until the final 15 minutes of the game that urgency started to shift the momentum. UBC capitalized on a penalty corner to cut the score to 2-1 in favour of the home side. A short option was fired in at the near post with 12 minutes to go in the game. UBC continued to attack and were rewarded just three minutes later with another penalty corner chance. The T-Birds tried the same option but miss-executed resulting in an unpredictably bouncing ball that beat Vikes keeper Jack Matthews to tie the game 2-2.
With just three minutes to go UBC got caught pressing too many attackers high and the Vikes were able to counter-attack with an odd-man rush. Sahota beat three defenders to feed Lee on the run just one-on-one with UBC’s goalkeeper. With little options the UBC keeper fouled Lee in the circle and the Vikes found themselves at the penalty stroke mark with a chance to win the game.
Veteran defender Martin stepped up and fired the ball decisively into the corner to give the Vikes the game-winning 3-2 goal.
“I’m happy with how we played today, particularly in the second game,” said Vikes men’s head coach Kevin Laidman. “Our fitness really shone through as our opponents were tired. It was a great effort to get the win after a 5-0 loss. Our experienced guys dug deep and I was really happy with the leadership shown by our first year players.”
The Vikes have 10 players in their first year, while just Bissett is the only fifth year and Martin is the only fourth year on the team.
“Parm Sahota and Harbir Sidhu were really strong for us in the midfield,” added Laidman. “Our defensive unit also really impressed me today and they were centered by Riley Tringham. Our rookies played well – Matthews in goal and Stuart Meikle and Jatinpreet Chauhan as outside backs had great games today. The team really deserved the win.”
The Vikes have just four games left in their season including one more road game on Feb. 13 against the Hawks. The team’s final three games will be played at home on Feb. 21, Feb. 28 and Mar. 6. The preimer league is currently dominated by the Vancouver Hawks, leading with a 9-0-2 record, while the Surrey Lions (7-2-2) and United Brothers (7-3-1) follow closely.