Story by Alex Rodgerson/ISN
The UBC Thunderbirds are now unbeaten in their last eleven games, dispatching of the University of Victoria Vikes in the first game of their two game Legend’s Cup Rivalry Series by a blowout final of 5-0. For Victoria, the Vikes have had an inconsistent season up to this point, entering Thursday night’s game against UBC with a 3-4-3 record on the season. UBC on the other hand have enjoyed a terrific Canada West campaign so far, entering the first game of the Legend’s Cup riding a ten-game unbeaten streak.
UBC would strike the Vikes in the very first minute, as striker Zach Verhoven would make a move down the left wing and beat his defender to the outside, before sending a nice ball into the goal mouth for Kristian Yli-Hietanen. Yli-Hietanen would manage to free himself from coverage and put the ball past Vikes keeper Jas Lally for a 1-0 UBC lead just 53 seconds into the game.
Victoria’s defenders would have a hard time against the UBC early in the game, creating too much time and space for the Thunderbirds to create offensive chances and leaving an unsettling gap between their defence and midfield. Victoria’s Evan Libke, a North Van native, would be the anchor for the Vikes defence early on using aggressive tackling and anticipation to break up several plays in the first half.
Just before the ten minute mark UBC’s Yli-Hietanen would look for more, taking a lead pass and break up the right wing but failing to get a proper shot away while being tackled from behind.
In the twenty-third minute Verhoven would continue to create opportunities for UBC, once again putting the ball through his defender and sending another dangerous cross towards the goal. This time however, the Vikes would manage to clear. Despite winning three corners in the opening twenty five minutes Victoria would fail to put a dangerous bid towards Richmond-born UBC keeper Jason Roberts.
Just a minute later UBC would strike again as Yli-Hietanen would register his second of the evening, going to the net and heading in a nice cross from Zach Verhoven. Yli-Hietanen, who was named second star in the Canada West three-stars last week, now has six goals in just his last two outings for UBC.
The game’s first yellow card would be shown in the twenty-ninth minute, when Verhoven would put a shove into the back of a Vikes Midfielder while josling for a loose ball. Verhoven, a third year UBC student from Surrey, would have a strong game for the T-Birds setting up both UBC tallies in the first half and constantly showing the ability to beat defenders one-on-one.
UBC would continue to move the ball around well in the thirty-eighth minute, connecting on thirteen consecutive passes before getting a great chance at the net, one that keeper Jas Lally would pick out of the air for his best save of the night. For Lally it would be a busy first half, making several key stops to keep the game within reach for the Vikes.
Victoria’s problems possessing the ball in the first half wouldn’t be their only troubles, as the Vikes midfielders would be caught several times failing to come back to help out their defence. This would lead to uncovered Thunderbirds at the top of the eighteen-yard box and numerous opportunities at the Vikes net. Victoria would escape the first half luckily only down by two.
The second half would begin with Victoria doing a much better job possessing the ball, as the Vikes would begin to win more one-on-one battles and start to get more dangerous looking on offence. However, it would be the Thunderbirds that would strike first in the second half, with UBC midfielder Sean Einarsson taking a pass from Riley Pang and sending a nice touch over the keepers head. This would put UBC ahead three to nil in the fifty-first minute of play.
The attack would continue in the fifty-fifth minute after the T-Birds would once again put on a passing clinic again, connecting on eight straight passes before UBC’s Ryan Sangha would finish in it tight to make it a 4-0. For Sanga this would be his first goal of the 2018.2019 Canada West season as the game would fall out of reach for the Vikes.
Victoria’s Ian Whibley, who had two of the Vikes’ three shots on the night, would get the best chance of the half to get the Vikes on the board in the sixty-ninth minute sending a hot shot just wide of the right post after what was a broken play for Victoria. However, like they managed to do all night, the T-Birds would transition the ball quickly down field and Nick Fussell would pound a low shot off the post and in from just inside the eighteen-yard box. This would put the game into blowout territory, with the Vikes down by five with just minutes left in the contest. The first game of the Legend’s Cup Rivalry Series between the T-Birds and Vikes would come to and end mercifully, with Victoria falling by a final score of 5-0.
Next up for the Vikes is game two of their two game set with UBC, this time with the scene switching to Victoria where the Vikes will play in front of a home crowd at Centennial Stadium. The Vikes will have to rebound in a big way if they look to salvage a victory against the red hot Thunderbirds, who with Thursday’s win now have gone eleven games unbeaten and sit alone atop the Canada West standings.
Tonight’s ISN Scouting Report:
University of Victoria Vikes – Evan Libke
The straw that stirs the drink for Victoria’s defence. Libke anticipates plays well and steps up at the right times, tackles clean and aggressively. A leader on defence for the Vikes, almost plays a Sweeper type role.
UBC Thunderbirds – Kristian Yli-Hietanen
Naturally strong finisher does most of his damage with his acceleration, pulling away from defenders to create countless chances for himself and teammates.