Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
-with files from Huskies Athletics
SASKATOON – The MacEwan Griffins traded goals with the Saskatchewan Huskies in a high-scoring Canada West season opener on Friday night, but fell 3-2 after the home side converted a penalty kick in the 60th minute.
Head coach Adam Loga wasn't a fan of the call that led to Gabriel Buatois being awarded the game-winning shot, but he was proud of how his team persevered in a tough road contest.
"(We told them before the game) to expect not to get any favours and have to earn everything and more," Loga explained. "You're going to have to fight for every inch. They did and unfortunately (we lost).
"This loss felt a lot different than previous ones, though. We're so close."
MacEwan lost 2-1 and 2-0 in matches against Prairie Division rival Saskatchewan last season and missed the playoffs by two points.
On Friday, Mohamed Omar, Nikolas Baikas and Buatois tallied for the Huskies, while the Griffins replied with goals from Stefan Gajic and Everett Orgnero. While MacEwan never led in the contest, they were always able to equalize until the second-half penalty kick went unanswered.
"I'm proud of the lads," said Loga. "I felt like they worked hard, they worked for each other, which is most important. I felt we were a bit unlucky to not come out with at least a draw.
"Credit to Sask, they played well and gave us a tough go and played us hard. We had to earn every inch here, but at the same time I felt we were a bit unlucky not getting a draw."
The first goal of the match came in the 17th minute when Omar jumped on a ball bouncing around the MacEwan 18-yard box and nodded it past goalkeeper Seth Johnstone.
MacEwan was quick to respond, however, when Gajic let loose a half-volley from way out that bounded past Saskatchewan goalkeeper Marcus Baxter and into the back of the net in the 26th minute.
The frantic pace to the opening half continued just six minutes later when Jacob Powell worked his way down the wing and sent in a cross that Baikas was able to tuck into the back of the net.
Again, MacEwan showed their resilience, however, and tied the game back up just four minutes later when Orgnero scored his first of the year from the penalty spot after Kapri (Marcus) Simmons was taken down by Baxter.
Ultimately, though, allowing three goals against is a death knell for a soccer team to overcome. Defensively, the Griffins know they have some stuff to clean up.
"We do well with the ball in possession going forward," said Loga, "But we know at times we switch off defensively, especially in transition. Unfortunately, it's tough to win games 4-3."
Johnstone made three saves for the Griffins in a losing effort, while Baxter stopped two for the Huskies.
Both of these teams are back in action on Sunday. MacEwan remains on the road to take on the Lethbridge Pronghorns (2:15 p.m., Canada West TV), while the Huskies will host the Alberta Golden Bears at 2 p.m.
"We just have to have a short memory and clean up some of the defensive meltdowns," said Loga. "We'll just have to look at the film and just keep teaching. These boys are young – the whole starting lineup is essentially first and second-year boys.
"We're essentially a U18 team out there. We just have to keep teaching and hope it cleans up the rest of the way."