Men’s Soccer (Dan Kinvig) : Jhaj breaks through with brace, Koellmel nets first career goal in Cascades’ win at UNBC

Noteworthy offensive breakthroughs from Gurmaan Jhaj, Atle Koellmel and Jehmrode Kahlon highlighted the University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team’s first conference win of the season, a 3-1 road triumph over the UNBC Timberwolves on Sunday afternoon.

Jhaj, the Cascades’ all-star striker, notched his first two goals of the campaign after being held off the scoresheet in UFV’s first three games. The brace gives him 19 career goals, moving him to within one of the Cascades’ career record of 20 held by Sasa Plavsic.

Koellmel and Kahlon, meanwhile, combined on the game’s final goal in injury time, each notching statistical milestones in the process. Fourth-year veteran Koellmel scored his first career goal in Canada West play, while Kahlon, a rookie suiting up for his second game as a Cascade, picked up the assist for his first career point.

Most importantly, the win kick-starts the Cascades’ pursuit of a Canada West playoff berth. They’re now tied for fifth in the Pacific Division with UNBC, both with matching 1-2-1 records.

“With the ball, I thought we looked a lot brighter than we did on Friday (in a 1-1 draw with UNBC),” UFV head coach Tom Lowndes said afterward. “We were braver, smarter, just a much better overall performance.

“And defensively we were immense,” added Lowndes, lauding the gritty play of holding midfielder Trevor Zanatta and the backline of Ryan Donald, Sahib Sidhu, Nawaf Binsaleh and Tyler Henderson. “We worked our socks off, and didn’t stop from minute one to minute 90. I was so proud of the whole team effort.”

Jhaj opened the scoring in the 24th minute. Fellow senior Tyler Henderson got the play started, hustling to get on the end of a long ball from UNBC keeper Rob Goodey and booting it back the other way. The ball threaded its way through the T-Wolves’ defence to spring Jhaj on the breakaway, and he fired home a low shot to Goodey’s left.

The T-Wolves equalized in the 50th minute. Off a Jonah Smith corner, Michael Henman claimed the ball in the box and hit a shot that curled top-corner to the left of UFV keeper Ethan Duggan.

Kahlon set the table for Jhaj’s second of the game, making a dynamic dash into the box where he was taken down by a UNBC defender. Jhaj stepped to the penalty spot and slotted a shot into the bottom right corner.

Koellmel, who came on as a substitute in the 85th minute, salted away the win on a counterattack with the T-Wolves pressing forward. Kahlon did the heavy lifting, stealing the ball in Cascades territory and going on a 45-yard run the other way before slipping a pass over to Koellmel, and his first touch was a right-footed shot into the right side of the net. He celebrated like he’d scored dozens of them before, posing with his arms crossed emphatically as his teammates mobbed him.

“It was euphoric to say the least,” Koellmel said with a chuckle afterward. “I have a couple of celebrations in the locker, and that was just the one that felt most right for the situation. We knew the win was secured after the goal, and that’s what the celebrations are for.”

The Cascades return home for a pair of games next weekend. They host the UBC Okanagan Heat on Friday, Sept. 6, and the Thompson Rivers WolfPack on Saturday, Sept. 7. Both games start at 7 p.m. at MRC Sports Complex.

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