Abbotsford’s Ajai Boparai pushes the ball forward during Fraser Valley playoff action on Thursday. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Abbotsford’s Ajai Boparai pushes the ball forward during Fraser Valley playoff action on Thursday. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Abbotsford Panthers qualify for soccer provincials

Senior boys soccer team punches ticket to provincials, advance to Fraser Valley final four

For the first time in over a decade the Abbotsford Panthers senior boys soccer team is heading to provincials.

In the midst of a rainfall warning, the Panthers won 4-3 in the penalty kick shootout over the Charles Best Blue Devils to qualify for the big dance and advance to the Fraser Valley semifinals.

The teams played a scoreless first half, and it was Abbotsford’s Jehmrode Kahlon putting the Panthers on the scoreboard with about 15 minutes remaining. The Blue Devils were then forced to play one man down after a player received his second yellow card, but Charles Best converted on a corner kick with minutes to go to send the game to extra time.

Panthers goalie Travis Inkster came up huge in the shootout, making a pair of big saves to help earn the win. All four Abbotsford shooters scored, as Max Barker, Marley Edwards, Arsh Cheema and Ajai Boparai converted.

“These guys really wanted this,” said Panthers head coach Dean Fetterly after the game. “It’s a big deal for them.”

Fetterly said Inkster was clutch in the shootout.

“You could tell he was disappointed after letting up that late corner goal,” he said. “So for him to step up and make two big saves was the difference.”

It’s the first time this season that the Panthers have gone to a shootout, but Fetterly said the Panthers lost twice in the shootout last season. He said Kahlon would have been one of the shooters, but he was recovering after a lower body injury suffered late in the game.

The win guarantees that the Panthers will compete at provincials, and have reached the final four of the Fraser Valley regionals. The semifinals occur on Tuesday, and Abbotsford’s next opponent is still to be determined.