Gary Elliot knew he had to do something different.
The Unicorns FC goalkeeper was beaten four times in the shootout, but knew that a save would give his team the chance to win the ‘A’ division championship game of the JulyFest soccer tournament.
“I had to change up what I was doing a bit,” said Elliot. “The linesmen don’t want you to jump off the line too much and I noticed a lot of the guys—where they were looking, were going the exact opposite—so I decided if I walk the line, then I’ll have a better chance to make the stop.”
The fifth and final shooter for the Montana Rapids stepped up, looked to the left corner, and shot towards the right side of the net.
Elliot dove and made the save.
The Unicorns, which had scored all four of their previous penalties, only needed Mike Hamm to bury the last one to win the title.
He booted a low shot into the left corner, and the Unicorns, along with their fans at the sidelines of the Purcell soccer fields in Marysville, erupted in celebration.
Hamm was well aware of what was at stake when he stepped up to the ball.
“I was nervous,” he said, “but tried to get that out of the way because it’s all about confidence in penalty shots. You should score nine out of ten times on a penalty. It’s a big net.”
Elliot was named the MVP before AJ Wheaton accepted the Happy Hans trophy, which hadn’t been captured by a Cranbrook team since 1997.
It was a Cinderella-story ending to a match that took a turn for the worse in the second half, after Corey Moore was red-cared upon receiving a controversial yellow card—his second of the game.
With roughly 15 minutes remaining, the Unicorns had to play a man down.
Still scoreless at that point, the Rapids took advantage of their extra man, and were rewarded with the opening goal.
It was tough to swallow, since the Unicorns had so many glorious chances all game to take the lead. Ross Hartell had put a header over the net, while Jake Walmsley rang a shot off the crossbar.
However, Walmsley eventually became the hero for the Unicorns late in the game, poking the ball across the line after the Rapids goaltender came out of his net for a challenge.
Knotted at 1-1 after full time, the game went directly to penalty kicks to decide the outcome. Walmsley, Wheaton, Hamm, Chris Rushworth, and Jake Broom all converted their dot shots.
The Unicorns finished the weekend on top of their pool with two wins and a draw. They won the quarterfinal 3-0 and advanced past the semifinal with a 1-0 win.