Griffins roll past Cougars after Burns' momentum-saving penalty stop

Emily Burns makes a save in front of MRU striker Natalie DeMarco on Saturday. Earlier in the contest, she stopped DeMarco on a penalty shot (Chris Piggott photo).
Emily Burns makes a save in front of MRU striker Natalie DeMarco on Saturday. Earlier in the contest, she stopped DeMarco on a penalty shot (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Emily Burns stopped a first-half penalty shot by Mount Royal's Natalie DeMarco and the MacEwan Griffins rolled to a 2-0 win on Saturday afternoon at Clareview Field.

Jamie Erickson and Kristyn Smart scored for the Griffins to deliver a victory in the opening match of the Canada West women's soccer season for both squads.

After Erickson gave the Griffins a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute – heading home a Suekiana Choucair corner kick – the Cougars nearly landed an equalizing blow when Janai Martens was tripped in the box in the 24th minute.

DeMarco ripped a solid offering towards the low left corner, but Burns laid out to get a hand on it and then safely scooped in the rebound to snuff out any momentum the visiting Cougars had.

"I think it was at a good moment definitely because we were only up 1-nil," said Burns. "So, one goal like that can change the momentum if it's a 1-1 game all of a sudden.

"I'm happy I could make the save and give us the momentum to give us a chance to the rest of the game."

The Griffins looked disconnected at times in the first half, but left little doubt in the second.

Smart netted the insurance marker in the 52nd minute when she ran in on an open ball off a Meagan Lemoine touch and ripped a 35-yard laser under the bar.

 "The nice thing is early in that second half, we got a big goal from our captain Kristyn Smart on a laser from far out. That set the table for the rest of the match and how it was going to go. I thought we were unlucky not to get another one or two."

That was due to MRU goalkeeper Katrina Greenley, who made 10 saves in the contest, none better than parrying away an Erickson offering in the 68th after she danced into the box alone and got all of it.

Cougars head coach Tino Fusco noted the stopped penalty shot certainly cut into some momentum they were beginning to build in the first half and the game went off the rails for them from there.

"I think any time you miss a penalty, the momentum can change," he said. "I didn't think we played very well. I think we can be better tomorrow.

"I think for us, we've just got to adjust to the bounce of the ball on the turf," Fusco continued. "For the most part, we possessed the ball the way we want to. We're looking forward to playing on grass tomorrow."

The Cougars will visit the Alberta Pandas on Sunday (12 p.m., Foote Field), while the Griffins host the Lethbridge Pronghorns (12 p.m., Clarke Stadium).

On Saturday, MacEwan dominated the stats – outshooting MRU 12-3 in shots 26-8 (12-3 in shots on goal) and earned seven corners to none. Still, they looked disconnected at times during the match.

"I think definitely there's some things to improve on, but it's the first game of the season and it can only go up from here," said Burns. "We'll just keep building on today's performance and it can only go up from here."