Griffins survive physical drama-filled affair to beat Dinos 2-1 in home opener

Everett Orgnero receives congratulations from Marcus Simmons after scoring the game-winning goal on a penalty shot in the first half on Saturday (Chris Piggott photo).
Everett Orgnero receives congratulations from Marcus Simmons after scoring the game-winning goal on a penalty shot in the first half on Saturday (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Saturday afternoon's Canada West men's soccer tilt between the MacEwan Griffins and Calgary Dinos at Clareview Field had it all.

Spectacular goalkeeping.

Eleven yellow cards between both teams.

A coach ejected.

The winning goal on a penalty shot …

Everett Orgnero beat Dinos keeper Jake Ruschkowski on a penalty in the 45th minute just before half-time and the Griffins hung on for a 2-1 victory in a physical, chippy contest between two Prairie Division rivals bent on vying for a playoff spot.

"We knew we had to battle today, that was the message all week," said Griffins head coach Adam Loga. "We had to match their aggression, physicality and their work-rate. We tasked the boys with that all week and they did well."

With shades of a 2-2 draw against Lethbridge in MacEwan's last outing Aug. 25 after blowing a 2-0 lead late in the contest, the Griffins entered half-time with a 2-0 advantage on the Dinos, too. Besides Orgnero's tally, Alexander Mosca opened the scoring eight minutes in, chipping a left-footed rebound off the right post and in from the top of the box.

The speech was obvious for head coach Adam Loga.

"Exactly that," he said of referencing the Lethbridge disappointment. "Are we mature? Have we grown more as a unit? Have we learned from our mistakes? We challenged them with that task and they came out on top."

The Dinos pulled within one in the 50th minute when Adam Huskic got on a ball at the far post off a scintillating long ball offering by Jared Filo and tapped it past Griffins goalkeeper Simon Dawe – seeing the first action of his Canada West career after starter Seth Johnstone was injured early in the game.

That's as close as the Dinos would get, but the Griffins survived an onslaught in the final few minutes.

"We wished we would have had more," said Loga. "It would have made me have less grey hairs, for sure. But the boys did well. I couldn't be prouder.

"We said this is what it's going to take to get to playoffs – clawing these out, getting these three points and not leaving them out there like we did two weeks ago."

As emotions rose late in the game, Calgary head coach Brendan O'Connell was ejected after arguing a non-call in the box.

However, the game wouldn't have been in doubt if not for the play of Ruschkowski, particularly in the second half when he dove to rob Marcus Simmons off a 67th minute header and then took away a sure goal from Orgnero in the 69th by parrying a rocket blast over the bar.

"Jake's always had a way of coming up with the big saves in the big moments," said Dinos assistant coach Taylor Evernden. "For three years, he's kept us in games continuously.

"On the flip side, we have to answer on the top end and put the ball in the net for him as well. It can be tough for Jake always standing on his head. He had a great game today."

Michael Ho didn't hit the scoresheet for the Griffins, but he was their MVP of the match for consistently breaking up Calgary's quick-counter attempts. The under-recruited 5-foot-5 defender was everywhere.

"He's the smallest guy in the park, but he's got the biggest heart and he competes the hardest," said Loga. "I just love the fact that nobody wanted him. I'm happy with have him."

The Dinos will try to regroup for a Sunday match at Alberta (2:15 p.m., Foote Field), while MacEwan hosts Mount Royal University (2:30 p.m., Clarke Stadium).

"We just have to reset and regroup and analyze our performance today, and break down the pieces that didn't work for us, and draw on the positives that did," said Evernden.