STRATFORD – The Summerside United Soccer Club (SUSC) completed their march to the Subway P.E.I. Under-18 Boys Soccer League (First Division) championship in dramatic style.
The United pulled out a 2-1 victory over the Eliot River Ramblers in penalty kicks to claim the provincial crown early Saturday afternoon. Summerside, which completed the regular season in fifth place in the seven-team league at 3-3-4 (won-lost-tied), won its two previous playoff games, also on the road, in penalty kicks.
“All season the SUSC was strong, and any of the top five teams in the league could have won the final,” said United coach Thane Smallwood. “Our story was the first round of the playoffs we were missing four players to the Eastern Canadian rugby championship in Nova Scotia, and we had two key players injured, Stephen Smallwood and Joel Gallant, in the final two games.”
Road to final
The United’s march to the title began with Bryce Corkum’s game-winning goal in a 2-1 quarter-final victory over Morell on Aug. 16. A week later, Matthew Meister scored the deciding marker and keeper Julien Robichaud stopped three of six penalty kicks in a semifinal matchup against the Sherwood-Parkdale Rangers that was scoreless through regulation time and overtime.
The final would not be any less stressful as the United and third-place Ramblers (4-3-3) were tied 1-1 entering penalty kicks. Corkum and Caleb Dawson found the back of the net while Robichaud made two saves as the United earned the provincial title with a 2-1 victory.
“The championship game was characteristic of the last three games, great defensive play by our fullbacks and keeper Julien Robichaud,” said Smallwood. “The teams in the playoffs were very well matched.
“We only scored two goals in the three games during regular time, and won the P.E.I. championship. A real testament to Julien and our fullback line.”
Kaleb Overy came off the bench to score off a Caleb Dawson corner kick to give the United a 1-0 lead before halftime. The United thought they had taken a 2-0 lead when a sliding Peyton Lauwerijssen slid to get a foot on Jordan Arsenault’s cross, but the play was rule off-side.
The Ramblers would tie the game with 20 minutes remaining on a goal by Dennis Park, setting the stage for another nail-biting finish that included both teams missing quality chances in overtime.
Smallwood praised the United’s resiliency.
“Quite simply, the guys never gave up when their backs were against the wall,” added Smallwood, who acknowledged the contributions of captains Lauwerijssen and Caleb Coyle along with Robichaud.
“(Lauwerijssen and Coyle) played strong roles anchoring the fullbacks and midfield,” continued Smallwood. “Julien Robichaud allowed only two goals in regulation play in the playoffs.”