Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Sometimes sports are just downright strange.
And on Sunday, the MacEwan Griffins will be left scratching their heads for a long time after somehow winding up in the loss column despite thoroughly dominating the visiting Lethbridge Pronghorns in time of possession and scoring chances.
Lethbridge, which didn't even possess the ball in MacEwan's end once during the first 20 minutes of the match, scored twice in the second half to rally for a 2-1 win, their first of the Canada West campaign.
"I thought we were a little sluggish in the first half," said Pronghorns head coach Randy Bardock. "I thought our late start yesterday affected us today. But I thought in the second half we started really playing the way we were capable of.
"They were really pressing the last 10, but I thought we defended very well. Nolan (French) made a couple of saves when we needed and we had some young guys come in and do a job for us."
French was the difference in the game as he turned aside of nine of 10 MacEwan shots on net, including two big saves late in the contest to preserve the win for the Pronghorns.
The tale of the tape was even more lopsided than that, though, as MacEwan got off a whopping 22 shots in the game to Lethbridge's 11.
"We've got to finish our chances," said MacEwan head coach Adam Loga. "The game goes in waves and when we have our opportunities we had to bury them.
"Unfortunately, we didn't today and they did. They didn't have many looks, but when they did, they capitalized and that was the difference."
In complete control early, MacEwan could have easily been up 3-0 after the first half. Instead, they settled for a 1-0 advantage when Sam Foster took brother Bennett Foster's pass out of the left corner and drilled a 42nd-minute low left strike past French.
Zibusiso Moyo and Lahai Mansaray pressured the Pronghorns' defence all half but just couldn't find a way to get another one. So, despite leading 12-2 in shots (6-0 on shots on goal), the Griffins held a slim lead.
That proved costly when Lethbridge found their legs (and arms) early in the second half. The ability of 27th-minute sub Andrew Primeau on a throw-in was what ignited the Pronghorns. Tossing it from the far sideline 40 yards into the box, Primeau's offering ultimately led to a 48th-minute corner kick that Kyle Angerilli put off a Griffins defender and past keeper Josh Letendre.
"We knew 17 had a long throw in and we knew he comes off the bench for 3 (Marcus Menzies), so the boys were prepared and the boys knew that was going to happen," said Loga. "It may have just been a little bit of ball luck and some disorganization on our end."
Not long after, another throw-in from Primeau led to a bullet shot from Dominique Point du Jour that Bennett Foster saved off the line for the Griffins.
MacEwan appeared to regain a 2-1 lead when Mansaray tipped home a Josh Samuel cross in the 61st minute, but the goal was waved off on an offside.
Then Lethbridge only needed one big chance when Primeau's 66th-minute hard shot from 30 yards out went off Letendre's hands and Point du Jour swooped in untouched to pot the rebound.
The Griffins desperately pressed for the equalizer, holding possession for nearly the entire final 20 minutes. French robbed 63rd-minute sub Michael Ho on a diving save before Moyo missed wide right, then wide left on glorious opportunities in tight. Lewis McDowell had the Griffins' final great chance but French got a piece of his shot, too.
If there are positives for the Griffins, it's that their offence is putting enormous pressure on teams. They just need to work on the finish.
"Again, we're a young team and we're changing the culture and the personality," said Loga. "Out of the four games we've played this year, we could have gotten at least a tie out of all four of them. But it's a change of mentality, a change of how they carry themselves.
"It comes with experience, as well. We will get there. It's a tough pill to swallow," Loga added. "We've proven ourselves to get results, but they don't give points for shots and possession. If that was the case, we'd be looking good."
The Griffins (1-3-0) will have plenty of time to mull the loss over as they head into a bye week. They're next in action Sept. 15-16 when they head to Victoria and UBC.
Lethbridge (1-2-1) will next hit the pitch for their home opener on Sept. 7 vs. Calgary and Sept. 9 vs. Mount Royal. The four points on the Edmonton weekend road trip – after drawing with Alberta 1-1 on Saturday – was a big result for them.
"It's huge because we're very thin on bodies right now," said Bardock. "We've got a lot of injuries and a lot of guys who had provincial commitments this weekend, so four points is huge."