SASKATOON – A total of five balls found the back of the net Friday, Aug. 23 as the host Saskatchewan Huskies men’s soccer team was able to topple the visiting MacEwan Griffins in what was the first game of the 2019 Canada West season for both squads.
Mohamed Omar, Nikolas Baikas and Gabriel Buatois tallied for the Huskies, with Buatois putting away a penalty kick in the 59th minute to break what was a 2-2 deadlock at the time.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult game, home-openers are difficult environments, especially with us playing three first years the entire match, I thought the nerves and excitement really showed in today’s game,” said Huskies head coach Bryce Chapman. “Overall I thought we were quite sloppy and maybe not as attentive as we need to be moving forward.”
Stefan Gajic and Everett Orgnero both scored in the first half for the Griffins, as the vistors were able to remain in the game after falling behind 1-0 and 2-1 in the opening 45 minutes.
“We do well with the in possession moving forward, but we know that at times we switch off defensively, especially in transition and unfortunately it’s tough to win games 4-3,” said Griffins head coach Adam Loga.
Marcus Baxter picked up the win in net for Saskatchewan, recording a pair of saves in the first start of his Canada West career, while Seth Johnstone took the loss despite a couple of strong saves for MacEwan.
Both teams sent out young rosters in the game but it was a mixture of experience and youth that Chapman highlighted postgame, pointing to fifth-year midfielder Jacob Powell and rookie Kuhle Bekwayo as bright spots in the match.
“Jacob showed his leadership in his performance, he was all over the park, he was defending extremely well and also started our attack,” said Chapman. “I thought KB really grew into the match, he was maybe a little nervous in the beginning but I thought he really influenced the game in the second half and I think that’s when we started to take over the tempo and put them on their heels, that’s exciting to see from a young player.”
The first goal of the match came in the 17th minute when Omar jumped on a ball bouncing around the MacEwan 18-yard box and nodded it past Johnstone.
MacEwan was quick to respond however when Gajic let loose a shot from way out that found the back of the net in the 26th minute.
The frantic pace to the opening half continued just six minutes later when Powell worked his way down the wing and sent in a cross that Baikas was able to tuck into the back of the net.
Again MacEwan showed their resilience however and tied the game back up just four minutes later when Orgnero scored his first of the year from the penalty spot.
“I’m proud of the lads, they worked hard and worked for each other which I feel is the most important thing, I felt we were a bit unlucky to not come out with at least a draw, credit to Sask they played us hard, we had to earn every inch here,” said Loga.
Buatois would bury the lone goal of the second half and give the Huskies the lead for good when he too scored on a penalty kick.
“We put three goals up and that’s absolutely a good day,” said Chapman. “Canada West is so tight that to walk away with three points after not feeling good about how you played, that’s a good day as well.”
Both of these teams are back in action on Sunday, MacEwan remains on the road to take on the Lethbridge Pronghorns while the Huskies will host the Alberta Golden Bears at 2 p.m. inside Griffiths Stadium.