Griffins start slow, endure second half of bad breaks in tough 4-0 loss to Huskies

Stefan Gajic defends Saskatchewan's Aaron Hidalgo-Mazzei during Sunday's game, won 4-0 by the Huskies (Joel Kingston photo).
Stefan Gajic defends Saskatchewan's Aaron Hidalgo-Mazzei during Sunday's game, won 4-0 by the Huskies (Joel Kingston photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – An overwhelming bounce-back response from Saskatchewan a day after a loss –  combined with a slow start from the MacEwan Griffins – led to a 4-0 win for the visitors in Canada West men's soccer action at Clarke Stadium on Sunday.

As they looked to atone for a 1-0 defeat on Saturday, the Huskies scored early, dominated throughout and hit the bus home for Saskatoon with a weekend split and top spot in the Central Division standings.

Saskatchewan improves to 3-1-0 with the win, while MacEwan drops to 1-2-1 and remains fifth in the division, two points back of the final playoff spot.

A day after having a second-minute goal disallowed on an offside, the Huskies netted an early one that counted on Sunday – this time in the fifth minute – when Robert Mackay tapped in a one-time pass from Tobias Hyrich-Krueger, who had made an inspired run up the left wing, burning a defender in the process.

"That's three games in a row we've started slow, for sure," said Griffins head coach Adam Loga.

Saskatchewan's Zach Edwards then scored two in a row, in the 23rd and 64th minutes, on almost identical plays – rebounds off free kicks that were blasted off of Griffins' keeper Josh Stayko.

The third goal, however, was disputed by MacEwan's bench – a similar play to the one that was disallowed on Saturday – as the line judge appeared to call offside but was overruled by the head official.

The rest of the game was a steady pour of lemon juice on an open wound for the Griffins as not only did the goal stand, but Stayko was forced to leave the game with an injury on the play.

Griffins goalkeeper Josh Stayko made six saves on nine shots before being leaving in the second half with an injury (Joel Kingston photo).

"This game was a bit different," said Loga, referring to MacEwan also losing badly in the back half of a series last weekend against Alberta. "We made some changes at half-time and we were on the front foot and getting opportunities. We knew we had to battle. We knew we were two shots away from tying the game.

"There were some tough breaks out there."

Those continued in the 73rd minute when, against the run of play, Saskatchewan's Fraser McLeod juked a defender and got a partial break, sending a shot off a MacEwan player and in past newly-inserted goalkeeper Simon Dawe for a 4-0 Huskies advantage.

Just over a minute later, Griffins captain Zach Rochat was harshly given a straight red card for a hard tackle, MacEwan assistant coach Dhee Govender was ejected along with him for arguing the call and tensions even spilled over into the stands with intense verbal sparring between rival fan factions.

"That was what happened, so we've just got to get back to this week and adjust for next week," said Loga.

If there was a positive for the Griffins, it was the play of rookie goalkeeper Stayko, who made six saves including two five-alarm diving stops off Saskatchewan sniper Nikolas Baikas in the first half.

"Like we mentioned yesterday, he's got such a big heart and he continually battles no matter how he feels or how sore he is," said Loga. "He just keeps going to battle for us. We're just so appreciative for him."

Saskatchewan outshot MacEwan 20-5 (11-1 on goal in the game).

Next up for the Griffins is a road trip to Calgary-based Mount Royal University on Oct. 9-10.