Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – With a severe, icy cross-wind at Clareview field making any sort of precision extremely difficult, the MacEwan Griffins gutted out a 1-0 victory over the visiting UNBC Timberwolves on Saturday afternoon.
Raeghan McCarthy's 67th-minute strike held up as the only tally ffor MacEwan as both teams struggled to employ strategies they had worked on in the week leading up to the contest.
"We had a great week of training. We worked on a lot of things that were conducive to playing a certain way, but when you throw in 50 kilometre winds, it throws a wrench into the plans," said Griffins head coach Dean Cordeiro. "But you know, we still tried to play the right way. We wanted to have a ton of possession and I feel like we had that today. I felt we did a very good job of getting a lot of opportunities in the attacking half."
Indeed, the first half was all MacEwan as they attacked UNBC's defence in waves, launching 10 shots at the goal but only one of them hit the target – Meagan Lemoine's 27th minute sharp-angle attempt. The Timberwolves had no early chances, rarely crossing midfield as the wind swirled against them.
But their defence was the story, in particular an inspired game from Mara McCleary, who continually sent through balls out of danger and disrupted MacEwan's offence.
"UNBC, they're coming off a huge result versus UBC (a 1-1 draw last week) and they played another great game today," said Cordeiro. "They defend really well, they made it difficult to get shots on target. We saw that in the first half."
MacEwan kept coming in the second half, though, and were finally rewarded for that persistence in the 67th minute when McCarthy took a pass from Kaylin Hermanutz into the box and ripped it off a defender past UNBC keeper Brooke Molby.
"We've been struggling a lot to get some goals, and I knew I had to get a shot off, even if it didn't look like the best shot possible," said McCarthy on her third tally of this, her rookie Canada West season.
Lemoine had a golden chance to give MacEwan an insurance marker in the 71st minute when she absolutely took the hide off the ball on a rip from the top of the box, but Molby made a highlight-reel diving save to keep the Timberwolves in it.
That led to some late drama as UNBC pressed hard for the equalizer. They had a corner kick and a free kick from 40 yards out in extra time, but didn't manage a shot on either. The wind clearly also wreaked havoc with their game.
"It was tough," agreed head coach Neil Sedgwick. "It's tough to measure how the team is progressing (with that wind). Two competitive teams – MacEwan is getting stronger and has some good players, very competitive. I think our girls are, too, but with this sort of wind, it's tough. First half, it was strong against our goal, the second half it died and came back. So it's a really tough game. Both teams competed well."
Emily Burns made five saves, most of them late in the game, to pick up her third shutout of the season.
As important as the win for MacEwan was the fact they scored. McCarthy's goal broke a 507-minute scoring drought for the Griffins that spanned more than four games, dating back to Sept. 17.
"It was a really exciting," said McCarthy. "We've been struggling a lot this season to get some offence and I knew I had to bring my best game today to try to pull through with a win."
MacEwan improves to 5-4-0 with the result, while UNBC falls to 2-6-1.
The teams will meet again on Sunday in Edmonton (Noon, Jasper Place Bowl).
Sedgwick doesn't plan to change much tactically, but he summed it up with a wish everyone can agree on for the rematch.
"Stop the wind."