Griffins settle for weekend split after 2-1 loss to Saskatchewan Huskies

MacEwan keeper Seth Johnstone leaps for a save against the Saskatchewan Huskies on Sunday in Saskatoon (Josh Schaefer/
MacEwan keeper Seth Johnstone leaps for a save against the Saskatchewan Huskies on Sunday in Saskatoon (Josh Schaefer/

MacEwan Athletics and Huskies Athletics

SASKATOON – Finish eluded the MacEwan Griffins men's soccer team during a 2-1 defeat to the Saskatchewan Huskies on Sunday.

Playing even (11-11 on shots on goal) with the home-standing Dogs means a lot in the respect column but, unfortunately, nothing in the standings.

"Similar to U of A (on Aug. 25 when the Griffins lost 2-0 despite playing the Golden Bears even), we missed a breakaway, hit a crossbar, missed a couple sitters and they converted on a late set piece and that's the game," lamented Griffins head coach Adam Loga.

A slow start cost the Griffins just as it did against Alberta as they conceded a goal just 1:41 into the contest. Saskatchewan's Mason Ogoke sent a cross in that bounced around the box before fifth-year forward Tyler Redl sent it past goalkeeper Seth Johnstone.

"I think we got off to a slow start again and spotted them a goal early, but were able to get into a groove shortly thereafter," said Loga. "We actually scored within five minutes but it was called back on an offside call."

That would be Brian Mayall – who had two goals in MacEwan's 2-1 win over Lethbridge on Saturday – hopping onto a loose ball in the penalty area and striking it past goalkeeper Greg Buckley. But the official's whistle signaled the bad news. No goal.

The Griffins continued to press for an equalizer and only a pair of fantastic back-to-back saves by Buckley denied Stefan Gajic and then Christian Hernandez from scoring in the 30th minute.

Rookie forward Gajic wouldn't be denied, though, nailing his first goal as a Griffin with a gorgeous strike off a high-looping Sheldon Prasad cross to equalize in the 44th minute.

"It came across and he hit it out of the air on a volley," noted Loga. "He just smashed it. It was a great goal, great finish – class from him. It was awesome."

MacEwan continued to hold sway for the beginning of the second half with Hernandez nearly putting the visitors in front after a long individual run, only to see his shot find the side-netting.

"The guys are coming together and have shown a lot of character over the last weeks," said Loga. "We are a young side, but are maturing every time that we step on the pitch."

Clear-cut chances were at a premium for much of the half before it was the Huskies' turn to ramp up the pressure in the latter stages of the game.

That pressure paid off for the home side in the 73rd minute when Nikolas Baikas curled a free kick from well outside the 18-yard box just inside the near post past a sprawling Johnstone.

Gajic nearly tied the game late, but his shot just ticked off the top of the crossbar and that was as close the Griffins would come with the Huskies able to maintain possession and ride out the end of the game to record the victory.

"We did well, executed the game plan well, we missed some chances, had a goal called back that could have gone either way," said Loga. "I have been telling the team that we have to learn how to close out games and learn how to win, this is just another example of that."

With the weekend split (following a 2-1 win at Lethbridge on Saturday), the Griffins return home with a 1-2-0 record. Saskatchewan is now 2-2-0.

Buckley made nine saves for Saskatchewan, while Seth Johnstone recorded four for MacEwan.

The Griffins will try to learn from the experience – another game that could just as easily been a win for a young side that's gaining steam.

"That belief is coming," said Loga. "I think the boys are starting to understand that we're for real and I'm sure the conference is recognizing that a little bit as well, so I don't think we'll be flying under the radar as much as we think in the near future.

"The boys did well. I'm proud of them. We just came up a little bit short today."

MacEwan returns to Edmonton to prepare for a pair of home matches next weekend – Sept. 8 vs. 2-0-0 Mount Royal (12 p.m., Clareview Field) and Sept. 9 vs. 1-1-0 Calgary (3:30 p.m., Clarke Stadium).