ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – For much of the 2016 season, the UFV Cascades have been a team that’s been able to score almost at will.
The UVic Vikes, who finished the Canada West regular season ranked ninth in the league with just 15 goals, have not had that luxury.
But Saturday’s Pacific Division play-in between the two teams in Abbotsford served as a reminder that the playoffs are a whole new season. And, thanks to a 3-2 victory over the U sports no. 8 Cascades, it’s a season that the Vikes will be continuing next week.
“We knew that it was going to be a tough game today—we knew that we were in tough and we knew that Fraser Valley was a team that had beaten us twice this year,” said Vikes head coach Tracy David. “But we also knew the last time that we played them that we thought we were in the game so you know there was a little bit of light there.
“We went into the game today feeling pretty good about ourselves and knowing that we had to give everything we had and I think we saw that today.”
Lindsay Machin led the way for the Vikes with a goal and an assist while Rachel Baird and Mia Gunter also scored for Victoria. Machin’s fellow senior Sarah Douglas added an assist on her opener in the 49th minute. Amanda Carruthers had both goals for UFV.
“That’s what you want from your fifth-year players,” said David about Machin. “She led us today, she was obviously an offensive threat for us today and she also was superb in the back so she had a fantastic game.
“She led with her heart and soul, there’s no doubt about that.”
Fraser Valley earned the second seed in the Canada West Pacific Division after putting together a 9-2-3 record that included two wins over Victoria. If they looked like a different team in the first half of Saturday’s game, that’s probably because they were; the Cascades’ leading scorer, Monika Levarsky, was unavailable to play due to injury.
Levarsky, who had 10 goals heading into the playoffs, haunted the Vikes during the regular season. She played a part in all five goals that the Cascades scored against Victoria, registering three assists on September 17 before adding two goals on October 14.
“She was a major, major offensive threat for them and they really missed her today,” said David.
If there’s a team that knows about the impact of injuries in Canada West, it’s Victoria. The Vikes overcame injury, illness and bad luck to get themselves in playoff position with a 5-5-4 record. They often relied on strong defence and goaltending to earn wins or ties, and the first half of Saturday’s game seemed to indicate the playoffs would be no different.
The second half, however, was a different story.
Machin got things started in the 50th minute, heading in a cross from Sarah Douglas to give the Vikes the lead. Rachel Baird made it a two-goal game just over ten minutes later, burying on an assist from Machin and taking the energy out of the home crowd
The Vikes looked like a new team after those two goals. With victory in their sights they picked up the tempo, forcing UFV to turn the ball over down low and in the offensive zone. The Cascades couldn’t seem to apply extended pressure in deep and were met with tight Vikes defence whenever they tried.
By the time Gunter scored in the 73rd minute, the game seemed to be all but over. The fifth-year forward from Edmonton fired the ball past UFV keeper Kayla Klim on a deflection to give the Vikes a three goal lead and a clear path to the Select Six.
That’s when momentum started to shift in UFV’s favour.
Carruthers scored back-to-back goals in the 80th and 86th minutes and all of a sudden a game that appeared to be over seemed to be just getting started. But the Vikes were able to hold on, and the final whistle sent the team into a frenzy as they celebrated their upset win.
“It was almost an about-face, wasn’t it?” said David when asked about UFV’s turn of fortune. “We had to make it kind of exciting and they scored two good goals. It was a little bit frantic there in the last 10 minutes or so.”
Victoria will be back at it next week, as they get set for the Canada West Select Six, hosted by the Trinity West Spartans. The Vikes will line up with the Saskatchewan Huskies, who defeated Regina 2-0 on Saturday.
“We’re just going to take it one game at a time going forward,” said David. “I think today was a really uplifting performance because we did score three goals and we needed to score three goals today. I think that’s an important step going forward.”