The league-leading St. Charles College Cardinals improved to 5-0-0 on the year with a 3-0 shutout of the Lancers on Tuesday at the Delki Dozzi Sports Complex, with goals from Keenan Skilliter, Jonah Harris and Kody Watson making the difference.
With just one game remaining on the schedule, the Cards have locked up first place and will face the Lo-Ellen Park Knights in one of two semifinals next Tuesday.
Struggling with numbers, the Knights were blanked 6-0 by the Lockerby Vikings earlier this week, with the latter apparently the safe bet to meet up with SCC in the city final.
The Vikings were paced by a two-goal effort from Gabriel Muray, with Noah Blackwell, Daniel Joseph, Braxton Terry and Dawson Quail adding one goal each. Ben Dufour and Oliver Ecclestone shared the shutout as Lockerby bumped their record up to 3-1-1, sitting safely in second place.
Returning a core of talent from the 2012 junior team, the Vikes have also welcomed an infusion of young guns, providing something of a pleasant challenge for longtime head coach Paul Hatzis.
"We're working on passing, setting up plays and gelling as a team," said Blackwell, who has shifted up from his more familiar role as a right outside midfielder to tackle the centre striker position this fall.
"I'm taking a lot more shots on the net this year, which is not something that I was really used to last year."
Blessed with a very deep bench, Hatzis has used the regular season schedule to substitute his players liberally, providing plenty of playing time for all involved.
As the playoffs approach, expect the bench to be shortened somewhat, though Blackwell acknowledged that it's not just one or two players that will make the difference if they hope to provide a stiff test for the Cardinals.
"We have to keep playing as a team, and we did that a lot better in this game than in past games," he said.
The SDSSAA banner will be awarded on Oct. 22 when the two semifinal winners meet at 3:30 p.m. at Delki Dozzi.