Griffins' playoff bid falls short on final day of season for second-straight year after 2-0 loss to TRU

Philip Masri goes up for a header on Sunday. He finished the campaign with eight points, tying the program's single season record (Eduardo Perez photo).
Philip Masri goes up for a header on Sunday. He finished the campaign with eight points, tying the program's single season record (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen 
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – With a tie doing nothing for them, the Griffins men's soccer team pressed forward in a valiant attempt to net the game's opening goal in the latter stages of the second half Saturday.

Instead, it cost them as the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack capitalized twice with Griffins' numbers forward, scoring 74th and 88th minute goals to win 2-0.

As a result, MacEwan will finish 3-8-3 and miss the playoffs, finishing three points behind Calgary (4-7-3), whom they won the season series against.

It's the second-straight year that MacEwan's playoff bid fell short on the last day of the Canada West regular season.

"Obviously, it's disappointing, especially for some of the veteran guys," said head coach Adam Loga. "Out of COVID to make playoffs on the last day and then to be knocked out on the last day two years in a row here is disappointing, for sure, but again progress. The fact that the program is in the playoff picture three seasons in a row until the final whistle and never eliminated until then shows the progress. 

"But again, we don't like feeling like this. We'll use it as motivation to hopefully turn that corner moving forward."

TRU came into the game possibly needing a win to make the playoffs, but found out at half-time they'd booked their spot after UNBC lost 3-1 at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna, B.C. 

With their game at Jasper Place Bowl tied 0-0 with MacEwan, they rested several starters, including putting backup goalkeeper Olivier Juneau in for the final 45. 

They were still able to win on goals by starter Alesandro Comita and 40th minute sub Dylan Hooper. TRU will finish the season at .500 (7-7-1) and will travel to meet Mount Royal University (11-2-1) in a quarter-final match next weekend.


Shameiks McLeod pushes the ball up the sideline on Sunday (Eduardo Perez photo).

MacEwan certainly had multiple chances to get on the board. Rakan Yassin had a wide-open run into the box and got off a hard 43rd minute blast that keeper Svyatik Artemenko stopped. Shameiks McLeod also had a hot shot stopped in the 85th.

Late in the contest, both Philip Masri and Abass (Tobie) Ajibade had headers from 10 feet out that Juneau caught.

"That's footie," said Loga. "You've got to finish your chances."

It was Ajibade's final game in a Griffins uniform, and he left it all out there with some masterful defensive plays, including blocking a point-blank shot from Michael Ojo in the 79th minute.

"Tobie, he just plays with so much passion and emotion and will and work-rate," said Loga. "It's some of those intangibles that you try to teach in young kids both in footie and in life. He has them innately."

Abass Ajibade played his final game in a Griffins uniform on Sunday (Eduardo Perez photo).

Despite the disappointment of not making the playoffs, the Griffins hold tons of promise for the future with all but one of their starters eligible to return next season.

"There's a lot of first-year guys in the program," said Loga. "To set the standard and culture for what we need moving forward, we did that. 

"We have a lot of talent coming back, so just more time together is going to be better results. Hopefully, we're that much further along come next August."

With the season ending, here are the program Canada West-era records broken or tied in 2023:

Philip Masri finished the season with eight points, which ties the program record for the most in a single Canada West season with Lahai Mansaray (2017) and Everett Orgnero (2018).

Nicolas Luczkiewicz finished the season with four assists, which is a new program record for the most by a rookie.

• The most goals by a Griffin in a CW game is two and three times MacEwan players tied the mark in 2023: Antony Caceres (Aug. 26), Masri (Sept. 24 and Oct. 14). Masri's two also tie the rookie single game mark of two, now accomplished six times.

• Luczkiewicz tied the rookie single game assists mark with two on Oct. 14, matching Mansaray's accomplishment from 2015.

• Four times this season did Griffins rookies net two points in a game, which matches a program record accomplished 10 times: Masri (Sept. 24 and Oct. 14), Luczkiewicz (Oct. 14) and Kayden Dugas (Oct. 14).