Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
-With files from MRU Athletics
CALGARY – You can't blame the Griffins men's soccer team for feeling like they have yet to get a straight shot at the Mount Royal University Cougars.
Earlier this month in Edmonton, they played the final 56 minutes a man down in a 2-1 loss to their Canada West Prairie Division rivals.
On Saturday, the field conditions foiled game plans and factored into the outcome – a 3-1 victory for MRU – as the match was played through a snowstorm on a grass pitch.
"You couldn't even see the grass," said MacEwan head coach Adam Loga. "We were told if it got as bad as it did when we finished the (first) half that we wouldn't go on, and it got worse.
"You couldn't even see. It was ridiculous."
Bad breaks seem to be par for the course for a Griffins team that is infinitely better than their 1-6-2 record indicates. Every one of their losses, except Saturday, has been by a single goal – the majority of those coming in the final few minutes of matches.
Their season of misfortune took another turn on Saturday when they not only lost the match, they lost starting defender Michael Ho to an ankle injury.
On the play in which he suffered the injury, Ho was whistled for an infraction in the box on MRU's Mo El Gandour. That allowed the MRU striker to score the game-winner in the 60th minute on a penalty kick, booting it bottom right corner past goalkeeper Simon Dawe, for his second of the game and seventh of the season.
"It's too bad," lamented Loga. "It's 1-1, the boys battled hard. We just can't catch a break.
"When we talk to the lads, we just remind them we're coming close, just trust us as a staff. This resilience will pay off. Just trust us. That's all we can say. I just feel for them a bit."
Difficult snow-covered field conditions greeted the teams on Saturday at Mount Royal University.
MRU struck first in the match as David Schaefer sent a pass to El Gandour, who deked out Dawe to put the Cougars up 1-0 in the 29th minute.
After a one-hour weather delay at half-time, MacEwan's Everett Orgnero made hay in the first two minutes back on the pitch, capitalizing on some open space in the box and beating keeper Kyran Valley to tie the contest.
But El Gandour's penalty kick put the Cougars in the driver's seat. They added an insurance marker in the 79th minute as the two-goal man set up Miguel Da Rocha for a three-point day.
The Cougars improved to 8-2, solidifying their hold on top spot in the Prairie Division, while MacEwan now sits five points back of Alberta (3-5-1) for the final playoff spot.
The Cougars host the Golden Bears Sunday in their final home game of the season while the Griffins will remain in Calgary with a visit across town to face the Dinos (5-5-0), a team they beat 2-1 at home earlier this month.