Imperial Cup dreams of Surrey’s ICST Pegasus end on penalty kicks

The yo-yo season of ICST Pegasus finally ended on a downtick with a loss in the semifinal round of the Imperial Cup playdowns.

With a berth in Imperial Cup final plus an automatic spot in the Provincial Cup tournament at stake, the Horsemen came up empty and were eliminated 1-0 on penalty kicks by Columbus in Vancouver Saturday.

"It was a heartbreaking way to end the season," said Pegasus manager Paul Sandhu. "It was extremely difficult to take. Our boys played hard and carried much of the play. We created a lot of good scoring chances, but unfortunately, we came up short."

League champions just two years ago, the Horsemen struggled for much of the 2013-14 Vancouver Metro Soccer League premier campaign. Goals were hard to come by in the first half of the season and as the losses mounted, Pegasus dropped in the standings. With the threat of relegation staring them in the face, the Horsemen made a coaching change and their fortunes began to improve.

Pegasus battled free of the relegation zone to secure their presence in the premier ranks for another year, and then pinned their hopes on a strong showing in the Imperial Cup tourney to launch them into the Provincial Cup draw.

Unfortunately, those plans fell one game short as Columbus pulled out the ugly win Saturday to send the Horsemen packing.

Columbus came out strong and put early pressure on the Horsemen defenders. The Newton lads weathered that storm and rallied with some heavy pressure of their own.

Pegasus created a number of chances in regulation time, but were unable to capitalize on the opportunities.

The best chances for Pegasus came in overtime where C.J. Jhooty clanged a shot off the crossbar. Shortly afterward, Sahil Sandhu slipped free on a breakaway. His shot was partially stopped by the Columbus goalkeeper, with the ball rolling agonizingly toward the far post before hitting the inside of the woodwork and bouncing out.

The game was ultimately settled on penalty kicks with Columbus prevailing 4-3.

"Needless to say the boys are gutted," Paul Sandhu said. "We really felt that given the way we turned things around, that this was our year. We thought if we had won this game that we possibly could have done some damage in the Provincial Cup. Unfortunately, it was a do or die game and our season is over. We just didn’t get the bounces we needed."

While the Horsemen are still digesting the sudden end to their season, Sandhu said there is plenty of optimism within the club.

"I wouldn’t say it was a good year; it was a frustrating year," he said. "It was a Jekyll and Hyde season for us. That said, we ended on a real high note, our locker room has never been as solid as it is now, and the boys all think they can accomplish something big. We think we have a squad that, for the next number of years, can challenge for the trophies. If we can keep everyone together, we think we can make the push next year."