Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – MacEwan defender Sheldon Prasad saved one off the line in the first half, a play which ultimately secured a point for the Griffins in a scoreless draw with visiting Mount Royal University in Canada West men's soccer action on Saturday.
In the 25th minute, MRU's Daniel Harrison elevated in the box to get a header on a corner kick, but Prasad, guarding the left half of the net, booted it out of danger.
The play was part of a strong run of possession for the Cougars in the first half.
Perhaps their second-most dangerous chance came in the 11th minute when MacEwan keeper Dory Elliott inadvertently stepped out of the box, setting up a free kick for MRU from 19 yards out. But Yusuph Kalenga put it into the wall.
"Two evenly-matched teams today," said MacEwan head coach Adam Loga. "The first half, they had more of the ball, but we were very sound defensively and absorbed the ball and pressure well. In the second half, we kind of caught a little bit of a wave. We unfortunately didn't finish.
"I thought 0-0 was a very fair result for both sides."
After Elliott shut down a clean break by MRU's Rene Douvon early in the second half, the Griffins carried the late run of play, but were always just a touch or two short from glory.
Both Brian Mayall and Prasad put shots just over the bar in a particularly dominant MacEwan run from the 73rd to 76th minute mark.
The shots ended up 19-8 in favour of MRU. Elliott made six saves for MacEwan, while Scott Hornbeck scooped up three for MRU as both earned clean sheets.
"It was a good game," said Cougars head coach Ryan Gyaki. "These last games of the season are interesting because we have a lot of guys at the end of the game who work hard all year and haven't had a chance. You want to give those guys a chance, as well. So, at the end some of those guys had their debuts for the team.
"Overall, I'm pretty happy. Always a fun game against MacEwan. It doesn't get better than a day like today," he added with a nod to some late October sunny weather.
MacEwan (2-9-2) actually wins the season series over MRU after defeating them 3-2 in a match in Calgary earlier this season. But it's the Cougars (4-4-5) who are headed to the Canada West playoffs, regardless of Saturday's result.
"At the end of the day, part of growing a program and a team is there's no game that doesn't mean anything," said Gyaki. "You definitely want to come out and play to win, but of course with a guaranteed playoff spot you definitely try some things. We went away from what we normally do. We wanted to experiment a little bit, but in this league it's too close and the teams are too good that you can do all sorts of fancy things, but if you don't respect your opponent, it's going to hurt.
"Regardless of whether we're building to the playoffs or not, we've got to set up with respect and know it's going to be a good game."
While MRU will close out the regular season with a visit to Alberta on Sunday (2 p.m., Foote Field), the Griffins get set for their final game of the campaign as they host Calgary (2:30 p.m., Jasper Place Bowl).
"We keep preaching that there's a lot still left to play for, whether there are playoff implications or not," said Loga, whose team would secure the best record in MacEwan's Canada West program history if they could manage to beat the Dinos on Sunday. "We're a young program and we want to keep growing. We want to build on our last season and we want to build on our last season prior, so points are important for us. We still want to better ourselves and progress on.
"We got another point, so I don't think we're going to be last."
Indeed, they won't. After the draw, the Griffins will finish 12th out of the 13 Canada West teams. Even if they lose on Sunday, they'd finish in a tie with 2-10-2 Lethbridge, but they hold the tiebreaker.