A storm was brewing up at the Esler soccer fields Saturday as the last place WL Storm completed their remarkable run to the Williams Lake Men’s Soccer League playoff crown Saturday.
After pulling off a pair of upsets last week over Windsor Plywood and Celtic Engineering the Storm capped off their season in dramatic fashion as striker Darko Ognjanov scored on a header from a corner kick in the 89th minute to give his side a 2-1 victory over Williams Lake FC.
“They should make a Disney movie about us,” joked Storm defender Duncan Peeman, referencing his team’s stunning turn-around.
The Storm, also known as the United Nations, featured players from all over the world which gave the league a welcomed infusion of football culture.
Storm featured players born in Macedonia, South Africa, Nigeria, Germany, Mexico, Chile, Federated States of Micronesia, Netherlands as well as having First Nations, French Canadians and players with Indian, Jamaican and British descent.
“It was very cool that this summer we had the World Cup and I was able to play with guys from all over the world,” said Storm defender Ken MacInnis. “It truly is the world’s game and soccer is the one common language everybody knows.”
The scoring opened in the 20th minute as Storm talisman Brandon ‘Magician’ Phillips collected the rebound off an Ognjanov shot that rattled off the crossbar, and after WLFC netminder Randy Riplinger made the initial save Phillips got a second crack and popped the ball in the net to make it 1-0.
Storm then suffered a setback as playoff leading scorer Pablo ‘El Pibe’ Aguero suffered an ankle injury and was forced to watch from the sidelines.
WLFC rallied to tie the game early in the second half as Rajan Mangat slammed the ball into the roof of the goal from a corner kick to make it 1-1.
It was a defensive battle which saw very few quality chances to score but plenty of strong defending on both sides.
Luke Moger had the best chance to put WLFC ahead as he rounded Storm goalkeeper Travis Nystoruk but MacInnis was able to get back in time to block Moger’s shot from an acute angle off the goal-line. The game looked destined for overtime until Ogdjanov’s header sealed the win.
“Our team really came together at the end of the season and there were times when we were under pressure but we managed to keep calm,” said MacInnis. “Grant (Gustafson) said at the awards how the social part of the sport is so important and our team had great chemistry and got along really well.”
Storm goalkeeper Nystoruk had another solid game and was named Playoff MVP. Nystoruk only surrendered two goals in three playoff contests to earn the award. Nystoruk also generously donated his share of the 50/50 winnings to a fundraiser for soccer player Robin Dieck who is recovering from a motorcycle accident.
Members of the winning Storm team that played in the final included Marc-Antoine Richer, Viktor Stamenov, Ognjanov, Nystoruk, Phillips, Peeman, Aguero, Michael Mthandazo, Bal Janda, Nick Bergeron, Gerrardo Cibrian, and Basil Robbins.
In the Consolation Final United Floors scored five unanswered second half goals to down Celtic Engineering 5-1. Celtic took an early lead through Justin Hansen to make it 1-0 heading into half time. Nick Iachetta led United’s attack scoring a pair of goals.
Following the contest the league awards were handed out. The winners were: Top Goalkeeper – Curt Levens (United), Top Defender – Mike Holmes (Celtic), Top Midfielder – Luke Moger (WLFC), Top Forward – Kolby Taylor (WLFC), League MVP – Luke Moger (WLFC), Most Sportsmanlike Player – Ethan Patey (Celtic), Best Oldtimer – Kevin Woodward (Celtic), Leading Scorer – Nathan Zurak (Windsor Plywood), League Champion – Celtic Engineering, Playoff Champion – Storm, Whiner of the Year – George Fraser (WLFC) and Russell Lund Memorial Trophy – Kevin Ernst (Windsor).