Ponoka’s U16 Storm won Central Alberta Soccer Association Tier IV League championship beating Lacombe 4-3 in a penalty shootout after the game resulted in a 2-2 tie at the end of the regulation, capturing the fourth of the potential five medals they can claim in this season.
The game in Lacombe on Thursday, June 26 started with some novelty for many of the Ponoka boys as they were playing on turf field for the first time. Regardless, the Storm opened scoring by a mid-range shot by Markus Baitinger just inside the 18-yard box making it 1-0 but only to see an equalizer in their own net within minutes with the scoreboard showing 1-1.
Lacombe used a cross from a corner kick cleverly to score the second just about ten minutes from the end of the first half and the teams went to half-time break with the hosts leading 2-1 over the visitors.
Ponoka began the second half with the determination to quickly bring in an equalizer but the score did not come until well into the halfway point in the second half of the game. It was again Markus Baitinger approaching the Lacombe net through a personal effort and kicking the goal.
After that point, it was a half-court game with almost all the players converging on the Lacombe side of the pitch, with Ponoka boys trying to score and Lacombe intensely working to stop them. But the onslaught of the Storm failed to bring the desired change on the scoreboard and the teams went into the penalty shoot-out.
With Storm goalie Justin Hyink becoming the author of two spectacular saves and Dillan Bouma, Jarret Henderson, LewisMcDowell and Markus Baitinger sending the ball to the Lacombe net in style, it was a time of jubilation for the boys and their parents watching the game.
Lacombe team declared Markus Baitinger “Most Valuable Player” of the final game on the Ponoka side.
“We were unlucky not to get a winner before time was up,” said head coach Gurjit Sandhu.
“In the shootout we scored four out of five. All the shooters went up with ice in their veins and put the ball in the back of the net.”
Sandhu praised Storm goalie for his saves. “Justin was brilliant in the shootout, saving two shots which was enough to give us the win and fourth gold medal of the season.”
After the championships in the Sunbreaker and Night Classic tournaments in Camrose and the top spot at the provincial qualifiers in Lacombe in addition to the CASA league championship just won, the U16 Storm have now set their sights on the provincial championship tournament at Three Hills over the weekend of July 11-13.