Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
-With files from Pronghorns Athletics
LETHBRIDGE – The official Canada West men's soccer table records a single point for the MacEwan Griffins through the first weekend of action.
Emotionally, that point – earned after a 2-2 draw with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns on Sunday – might as well be a kid's participation ribbon, discarded into the deep recesses of the bottom dresser draw.
In command of the proceedings for most of the contest, the Griffins led the Pronghorns 2-0 with less than four minutes on the clock, only to concede two late goals and settle for a tie.
"We were resilient and played essentially a good 85 minutes, and then just beat ourselves in the last five," said Griffins head coach Adam Loga of the game which featured a lengthy weather delay in the middle of it. "Just a little careless out the back and gave them a spark of momentum. They ended up riding that wave and tying the game."
Danilo Morales and Ben Kutas scored two minutes apart in the final three minutes to tie the game for Lethbridge. The Griffins gained an early lead on goals from Stefan Gajic (17th minute) and Michael Enes (21st) but couldn't close it out.
"We're young. Hopefully we can learn from it," said Loga. "Obviously, I'm kind of at a loss for words right now. We just have to learn how to close games out. It's tough.
"That's sport, unfortunately. The difference between winning and losing is so fragile. Sometimes there's just intangibles you don't even know."
Coming off a season-opening loss to the Alberta Golden Bears, the Pronghorns found themselves on their heels early and were unable to weather the storm from a hungry Griffins team, which also lost on opening night – in Saskatchewan.
Following a sustained early possession advantage, Gajic opened the scoring for MacEwan just past the 16-minute mark for his second of the season. Gajic half volleyed a bouncing ball just inside the penalty area, beating 'Horns keeper Matt Vandervoort to the top left corner.
Only six minutes later, the Griffins doubled the lead. Rookie Michael Enes corralled a pass from Gajic at the top of the box and turned a fired a shot past Vandervoort for the first of his university career.
"We are really excited about our front five," said Loga. "They're young and have the opportunity to be together for four seasons, this one included.
"Again, the front five could be a special unit for seasons to come."
With the Griffins still controlling the pace of play, the game was halted for nearly an hour due to lightning in the area. Early into the restart, the Griffins nearly added to the lead but Vandervoort made a stellar save off of Everett Orgnero point blank.
In the second half, the Pronghorns were able to establish a bit of an offensive attack as the half went on but were unable to break through the Griffins backline.
MacEwan had another dangerous chance to add to their goal total in the 75th minute but Joseph Abrahart's close range shot found the post.
With the Pronghorns pushing to get on the scoreboard late, Morales stole the ball from a Griffins defender in MacEwan's penalty area and beat goalkeeper Seth Johnstone.
During a scramble with time winding down, the Griffins cleared a Deepak Bains offering off the goal-line, but right to Lethbridge's Ben Kutas, who slotted the equalizer into an empty cage.
The Griffins next head into a bye weekend before preparing for home-opening dates against Calgary (Sept. 7, 2:30 p.m., Clareview Field, Canada West TV) and Mount Royal University (Sept. 8, 2:30 p.m., Clarke Stadium, Canada West TV).