|EDMONTON — Patience was the name of the game for the Griffins on Saturday.
In a contest against Saskatchewan that was largely one giant chess match, MacEwan finally got a break in the 86th minute.
Suekiana Choucair’s 45-yard free kick forced Huskies keeper Jadyn Steinhauer into an awkward leaping save that she tipped off the crossbar and bobbled, leaving Griffins’ Kristyn Smart a wide open net to tap it in.
That proved the difference in a 1-0 decision for the Griffins that improves their record to 2-2-1 on the Canada West campaign. Saskatchewan falls to 2-3-0.
On the late tally, any one of three Griffins players charging into the box could have put the ball in. But Smart took advantage of the break.
“She took a second, she took a breath and the team was better for it,” said Griffins head coach Dean Cordeiro. “Sometimes you see a comedy of errors there and you miss an opportunity. I think people saw that Smarty had the best position on that and gave her position. The end result was the goal we were looking for.”
Smart said in situations like that, you don’t really think about it, you just react.
“I just tried to place it in the net and it worked out,” she said.
“We really wanted to finally get another W. We finally pulled it through at the end.”
Despite the loss, Saskatchewan head coach Jerson Barandica-Hamilton thought his team played well
“To be honest, this was probably our best performance as a team, playing from the back,” he said. “I thought we were the better team today for the first 45 minutes, unfortunately we didn’t capitalize.
“The second half, they got better and we were a little bit on our heels towards the end. It was a 1-0 game, could have gone either way. I can’t fault the girls. They battled. There was quality all around. If we keep playing like that we’ll be fine.”
Cordeiro acknowledged the Huskies’ effort, especially in the beginning when they came out strong.
“Saskatchewan, when you’re on the road you need to come out strong in that first 15 minutes and set the tone, so credit Jerson and their side,” he said. “They’re very experienced. They won the Prairie Division last year and came close to going to nationals.
“We knew they were going to be one of the top teams in the Prairies again. So we had to weather the storm a little bit, but we responded.”
The tide started to turn in the middle of the first half when MacEwan’s Isabella Ponciano stepped into a cross and had a laser that likely was headed for the top corner if not for Huskies defender Ella Molnar blocking it with her face. Molnar stayed down on the pitch and left the game, but bounced back and returned in the 62nd minute.
The Huskies’ best chance came in the 79th minute when Erica Hindmarsh, who pressured the Griffins’ defence all game, ripped a shot from the top of the box that MacEwan’s Emily Burns deftly deflected over the bar.
Steinhauer made five saves for the Huskies in a losing effort, while Burns stopped seven for the Griffins to earn the shutout.
Defender Kristen Skrundz was named MVP for MacEwan, while midfielder Rebecca Weckworth earned the nod for Saskatchewan
On Sunday, MacEwan will welcome Regina (1-2-2 after losing 1-0 to Mount Royal Saturday) at 12 p.m., Jasper Place Bowl, while Saskatchewan heads to Calgary to visit MRU (2-3-0) at 11 a.m.e Griffins Goal Gives Huskies’ Heartbreak