Canmore United defeated bitter rival Pika Village 3-1 in penalty kicks to capture the second annual Big Head soccer tournament at Millennium Field on June 5, earning the right to hoist the Bow Valley’s most inimitable trophy.
The win was a touch of revenge for the Canmore team, which lost the Bow Valley Soccer League title to Pika last season based on goal differential.
“It’s nice to get one on them. I didn’t think about it until extra time, but the core of these teams have been playing one another for a decade,” said Canmore United captain Mark Spowart.
Both teams maintained a perfect 4-0 record through round robin play, despite ‘winter rust’ affecting the timing of both squads.
Canmore controlled play for the majority of the first half, deftly moving the ball up the field with precision passing. The territorial advantage put pressure on the Pika defence, which succeeded in staving off several dangerous crosses from Canmore attackers.
“(Midfielder) Brian Daniels was great. His composure on the ball really helped,” Spowart said.
In the second half, Pika launched its counter attack, relying on speed and fitness to break through the Canmore midfielders’ defence. While their attack wasn’t as potent as the squad that won the Bow Valley Soccer League championship last year, they kept sustained pressure on Canmore.
“We got a bit tired. They’re fit and we’re getting fit,” Spowart said.
After trying to run their opponents into the ground, Pika manufactured two glorious chances in the final five minutes of the match, however, they failed to convert on two chances in close.
Pika also had the best chance in extra time, sending a striker in all alone who fired a shot into the back of the Canmore net. However, the forward was ruled offside on a late call, nullifying the goal.
The game then went to penalty kicks, where Spowart put the game out of reach, unleashing a cannon of a shot into the bottom right corner of the net.
On top of four Bow Valley teams, the tournament attracted two squads from Calgary as well as one from Invermere.
Bow Valley Soccer League will begin play in the coming weeks, and the Banff and Canmore travelling teams will compete at a tournament in Revelstoke on June 18-19. The league will only have five teams this year, and while the players would rather have more opponents, the starting 11 on each team should be stronger.