Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – It took 13 tries for the MacEwan Griffins men's soccer program to beat Saskatchewan in a Canada West regular season match, but they finally broke through with a 1-0 triumph on Saturday.
After enduring an 0-11-1 record as a program against the Huskies since entering the conference in 2014, you can bet the MacEwan players and staff aren't ever going to forget the victory.
"It's massive," said Griffins captain Zach Rochat, who scored the lone goal at Clarke Stadium. "Sask are a great program.
"It was a chippy game today, but we kept our heads and we have another one tomorrow that we've just got to battle just as hard."
With their first victory of the 2021 Canada West campaign, the Griffins improved to 1-1-1, while Saskatchewan dropped to 2-1-0.
"The guys are putting in the work, the staff's putting in the work and it's coming to fruition finally," said MacEwan head coach Adam Loga.
Rochat scored the only goal the Griffins would need when his diving 22nd-minute header off Joseph Abrahart's corner kick slipped through Saskatchewan goalkeeper Marcus Baxter's hands, careened off the far post and in.
"Joe whipped in a good ball and I just thought I had to get a head on it, so I did," said Rochat, who was laying on the ground behind the end line watching the ball find the back of the net. "It was funny. When I actually rolled over, I looked back and saw it hit the post and in. All the guys were happy with that."
Zach Rochat watches from the ground as his header goal in the 22nd minute eludes Saskatchewan goalkeeper Marcus Baxter (Joel Kingston photo).
Early on, it looked like the Huskies' dominance over the Griffins would continue as Aaron Hidalgo-Mazzei took a second-minute pass off a corner kick and sniped it through traffic inside the left post. In a confusing sequence after celebrations had concluded and players were set to resume play, the officials took the goal off the board on an offside call.
The Griffins settled in after that with some possession and a one-timer chance off Rakan Yassin's boot that Baxter stopped.
Then Rochat, the astute centre-back, who was in the box on a corner, brought the home fans out of their seats.
"Couldn't be happier for Rochat," said Loga. "Leader of the team here. He's put in his time and taken his knocks over the years. It's nice to see him celebrate."
Chance Carter is taken down late in the game, which was chippy from start to finish (Joel Kingston photo).
Saskatchewan pressed for a goal the entire second half, dominating possession and outshooting the Griffins 16-1. MacEwan bent but didn't break, although the save goalkeeper Josh Stayko made in the 74th minute – robbing Tobias Hyrich-Krueger, who was in alone – was essential in preserving the win.
Stayko finished with nine saves for his first career Canada West shutout and now has 22 stops in three games in this, his rookie season. Baxter had three stops for Saskatchewan.
"Nobody wanted Josh Stayko," said Loga, talking about recruiting the 5-foot-9 Sherwood Park product. "It's just incredible. It's mind-boggling to me, but he just proves people wrong game-in and game-out.
"His heart's taller than his size and he just keeps proving it."
Saskatchewan finished with a 26-8 shot advantage (9-4 on goal) in the game. The contest was heated at times and featured a total of seven yellow cards (five of those for the Huskies).
The teams will meet again on Sunday (2:30 p.m., Clarke Stadium, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).