Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
MacEwan's 80th-minute rally hats were on and the magic was starting to course through their veins.
Unlike a week ago, however, when they scored three goals in six minutes to recover from a 2-0 deficit and beat Mount Royal University, the Griffins' furious late-game comeback attempt fell short in a 2-1 loss to visiting Saskatchewan on Saturday.
"We're a great team and we have a lot of character on this team," said Griffins head coach Adam Loga of the rally attempt when the Griffins could have been left for dead. "Guys will work and guys will push.
"I take my hat off to them for that, but we've got to come out in the first 45. We can't keep spotting two-goal leads to opposing teams because it won't be our day every time."
After Saskatchewan's Tyler Redl blasted a shot from 30 yards out that found the top right corner past diving MacEwan keeper Dory Elliott in the 52nd minute to put the Huskies up 2-0, it seemed like the result was a foregone conclusion.
But Griffins' rookie Christian Kosmin hustled onto a loose ball at the side of the net 82nd minute and put a sharp-angle shot in off Huskies goalkeeper Patrick Pranger.
Ignited by the chance to pull off a draw, the Griffins dominated late possession and had multiple chances to tie it. All they had to show this time, though, was a handful of near-misses, including Lahai Mansaray's header over the bar off a great cross from Kosmin in extra time.
Saskatchewan head coach Bryce Chapman's troops – a group which includes 10 rookies – held up … even if he nearly had a heart attack.
"(MacEwan's comeback last week) was definitely in the back of my head, especially when they got the one in the 82nd minute," Chapman whistled. "That just shows the resilience and shows what the coaching staff's doing for MacEwan. But we're a young team. So, we've got to go through those experiences to know how to handle those experiences.
"You can draw it up as much as you want as a coaching staff, but they've got to find their way and deal with those last little bits of pressure that teams are going to put on us."
Saskatchewan was full marks for the win after dominating the first half.
In the 21st-minute, they were rewarded for a ton of early pressure when Sam Whiting's cross bent dangerously through the box, past the intended attacker and lunging Elliott. Waiting on the other side was a wide-open Bryce Marinus, who planted a one-timer in the back of the cage.
The Huskies put the ball in the net later in the first half – a header off a free-kick cross – but the play was called offside, so they settled for a 1-0 lead after 45 minutes. It was a score that flattered a flat Griffins side that looked shy in the limelight of their home opener.
"Our start was terrible," said Loga. "We just didn't execute the game plan to the level that we wanted to and it cost us.
"Early in the second half, Number 14 had a screamer and that was the game."
Chapman's club takes a 3-0-0 record into Sunday's visit to Alberta (2 p.m., Foote Field). He was pleased with their level of organization, especially in the first half.
"I was very pleased with the first half. I thought we moved the ball well," he said. "We were well-connected and well balanced.
"I thought we definitely had the better hand in the first half, but we made a few subs and they definitely came out a little harder and pushed us in the second half, which was a good test for us."
MacEwan (1-2-0) will next host Lethbridge on Sunday (Noon, Jasper Place Bowl). If they can build off anything, it's that their late charge was keyed by energetic first-year additions Sheldon Prasad (MVP in his Griffins debut), Michael Ho, Kosmin and Zibusiso Moyo, whose elusiveness drew gasps from the crowd.
"They did great," said Loga. "We are young team and these are moments that we take and we learn from. Sheldon, Mikey – these guys aren't even legal age here in Alberta and they're playing against men and doing really well. The future's bright for them and the season's going to be positive for them."