Dan Cato does not score often, but when he does, it is usually huge.
The captain of the Vancouver Island University Mariners men's soccer program left the M's faithful with one final great memory, rallying VIU to a 4-1 win over the Capilano University Blues on Sunday.
His three-point second half preserved the Mariners' season, keeping them in the Pacific Western Athletic Association playoff hunt.
A loss or tie would have left them at least five points out of the final provincial birth. Instead, they are just two points behind the UBC-Okanagan Heat with four games to go.
As provincial hosts with no bye into the tournament, Cato could not have picked a better time to break out offensively.
The last time the six-foot-one defender scored, it was the winning goal in the Canadian College Athletic Association semifinal last year to send the M's into the national championship game.
"You only score them when they count the most," he said with a grin.
Cato generally is not in prime scoring position, as one of the top defensive players in the country. But with VIU needing a win on Sunday at Merle Logan, head coach Bill Merriman had him kicking off of set pieces and coming up in the play more.
The move paid dividends early in the second half off a free kick deep in the Blues zone. His attempt found its way Nick Moore who buried the ball for his second goal of the game.
Two minutes later, the Mariners had another free kick from almost the same spot, and the result was the same. Only this time Colin Knight finished the play.
Then, in the 77th minute, on a Capilano clearing attempt, the ball ricocheted off of Cato and past Shawn Greensides in the Blues net.
"It's been the best five years of my life, and to finish it with a goal and a couple of assists and a big win for the team when we needed it the most, I couldn't ask for better," he said.
But Cato is captain of this group for more than just his knack for timely scoring.
He was the only fifth-year senior on the squad, and was honoured before the game, his final home regular season contest.
The Timberline Secondary School product was a 2012 PacWest all-star, was named the top defender at provincials and was then named an all-star at nationals.
He has been critical this year in passing the torch of their PacWest dynasty - threestraight trips to the CCAA championships, earning a medal each year - on to the younger players.
"He's been instrumental in being where we are and how we've done," said Merriman. "Having him this year, he's our main guy. .. everyone else on this team is young, except for him."
All that's left is for Cato is one final run at the post-season.
To get there, they cannot afford to lose or tie any more games, like they did on Saturday when they knotted the Blues 1-1 in North Vancouver. But they were also missing one of their top players in mid-fielder Farhad Abdulgani, who was serving a two-game ban for a red card on Sept. 29.
This weekend they are in Vancouver to play the Langara Falcons (6-3-1) on Saturday and the Quest University Kermodes (0-8-2) on Sunday. To close out the season they go back to Vancouver to play the Kwantlen Eagles (1-6-3) and the Douglas Royals (7-2-1).
"When you look at the standings, the teams behind us, we've tied all of them. If we turn those into wins, we're in a different situation," said Merriman.
FROM THE PITCH - The VIU women's soccer team were all but eliminated from playoff contention on the weekend, losing 3-1 to Capilano on Saturday and then tying the Blues 1-1 on Sunday. Jessie Weninger scored for VIU on Saturday and Kaylee Dodds scored on Sunday. They are tied for sixth with eight points, nine behind the Heat for fourth place.
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