Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
KELOWNA, B.C. – Facing an uphill battle down four starters to suspensions, the MacEwan Griffins can certainly take pride in the strong push they levelled at the top team in Canada West on Friday night.
Although, the result ended 1-0 in favour of the UBC-Okanagan Heat, there is a moral victory to be gleaned for a young Griffins team continuing to give top teams tough challenges week in and week out.
"We continue to face adversity, down four starters in this match," said MacEwan head coach Adam Loga. "But we just played the best team on the B.C. side and were unlucky not to get a point. We've just got to stay positive. Good things are happening."
Unfortunately, a slow start cost the Griffins as goalkeeper Seth Johnstone kept them in the match early on, finishing with nine saves.
"He made some big saves off some set pieces that bailed us out in the first 15 before we found our legs," said Loga. "It was a bit tough – we had to check out of the hotel at 1 for a 7:30 game, so it was a bit tough for us, but we obviously found our legs into the second half."
UBCO's Pierson Stanley netted the only goal of the game in the 34th minute.
"It was good buildup out the back for them," said Loga. "It went up the right side – good combination play to our end line and cut it back for a one-touch finish. It was a good goal."
Michael Enes delivered MacEwan's best chance of the first half in the 17th-minute when his shot was parried out of the top corner by Heat keeper Nicholas Reitsma. Everett Orgnero nearly tied the match in the 36th minute, but his offering trailed along the goal-line and missed wide.
"We had a couple chances in the first half, but we were against the run of play a little bit in the first half," said Loga.
The Griffins made some adjustments at half-time and had more shot attempts than the Heat in the second 45 (5-4). Their best opportunity came in the 83rd minute when Liam Creek just missed the net on a golden opportunity off a Rakan Yassin cross that was chest-passed by Orgnero to him in tight.
UBCO also nearly scored when Spencer Young hit the post in the 65th minute.
"We made some adjustments, some shape changes, some personnel changes at half," said Loga. "We were trying to get the changes done earlier, unfortunately we couldn't get everyone on the same page. We made the changes at the half and were all over them. We just couldn't find a way to find the back of the net."
With the result, MacEwan falls to 1-3-1, while UBCO improves to 5-1-1 and moves into first place in the conference following Mount Royal University's 3-2 loss at UNBC.
There were no cards of any colour in Friday's contest, which is welcome news for a Griffins team set to put past discipline behind them. They'll welcome back three starters - Kapri Simmons, Michael Ho and Zibusiso Moyo - from suspensions for Saturday's match against Thompson Rivers University (8:30 p.m. MT, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).