VICTORIA, BC — Wyatt Gilbert scored the biggest goal of his career for UBC Okanagan on Saturday night. The first year midfielder was the latest first year player to play the hero for the Heat men’s soccer team scoring the wining goal as the time on the clock read well past the 80 minute mark.
Needing a win to guarantee themselves a spot in the Canada West playoffs, the UBC Okanagan Heat left it until the very last minute but were able to pull out a 3-2 victory over the UVic Vikes on October 22 on the soggy grass of Centennial Stadium in Victoria, BC.
“We have kind of made a habit of it this year, we’ve won a few games late and it’s a testament to our players, their commitment and their desire to keep on fighting,” said Heat head coach Dante Zanatta.
Gilbert scored the winner and Isaac Koch and Jyotish Khanna scored the Vikes goals while Luke Warkentin, Nikhil Reddy scored the other Heat goals, both were immediate answers to the short-lived Victoria lead.
The all-important goal from Gilbert came in the 91st minute of play. Reddy controlled a loose ball before playing a perfect pass across the face of goal to the waiting Gilbert who blasted the ball into the top corner.
“We got a bit lucky, but sometimes karma works for you,” said Zanatta.
“B.C. is so tough, UVic is normally a power in the conference and we were fortunate today for sure.”
UVic got on the board first early in the game. Jack Hill played a perfectly weighted through ball into the path of the speedy Koch who tucked the ball past Mitch McCaw in the Heat net in the fourth minute.
The goal was the fourth of the weekend for Koch, who ends the season with six goals in just eight games played.
UBCO tied the contest back up 10 minutes later in the first half after Warkentin was the first man to get a foot onto a ball bouncing around the UVic 18-yard box.
Khanna scored his first goal of the season in spectacular fashion to restore the Vikes lead just a few minutes into the start of the second (51′). A ball crossed in looked to have too much pace for the first-year Vike to get a piece of, but Khanna flung himself forward and powered the ball into the net with a diving header.
Reddy tied the game back up for UBCO when he immediately answered the Vikes second goal in the 53rd minute, before turning provider for the dramatic game winner.
“The game was calling for Nikhil because he has that silkiness to him and an ability to distribute,” said Zanatta.
The extremely young roster of the Heat close out the regular season with a record of (6-8-2), and finish fourth in the Pacific Division, thanks to the UBC Thunderbirds hanging on to a (2-1) victory over the Thompson Rivers WolfPack in Vancouver which finished just a few minutes earlier then their decision.
With the win the Heat will travel to Edmonton next weekend for the first round of the Canada West playoffs. Their quarter-Final, win or go home match will be against he top seed from the Prairie Division the (13-1-2) Alberta Golden Bears.
Other first year heroes, rookies that scored the game winner late in the match are: Spencer Young at home versus Victoria on Aug. 27 the winner was scored in the 88th minute, Zach Rachynski on Sept. 17 at home versus Calgary in the 90′; Rachynski did it again the next day on Sept. 18 versus Lethbridge (87′).
Five of the six UBCO wins have had the winning goal score later then the 87th minute. Karma has played a role however as the Heat have had three (1-0) loses this season where the goal against them was scored in the 83rd minute or later.
The loss ends a turbulent season for the Vikes who finish with a record of 5-10-1.
NOTES: Extremely youthful Heat team: 9 or the 13 goals on the season were by first year players…12 of 13 by first or second year players….all 13 goals by players in the third year or less….The game was the last one in the storied careers of graduating Vikes, Adam Ravenhill, Sam Prette and Noah Pawlowski.