Dan Khavkin, Cougar Athletics
CALGARY-AB, Mount Royal Cougars hosted top dogs of Canada West, Saskatchewan Huskies at Cougar Stadium Field on a crisp Saturday morning, winning the decision 2-0.
The Cougars almost found the back of the net minutes into the game. Off open-play, Emily Sands struck the post after a scramble inside Saskatchewan's box.
Moments after that, Janai Mertens had herself the chance of the half. A collapsing Huskie defence allowed for the Cougars to set up shop inside their half, Mertens found her self on the wing of the Saskacthewan defence line. Mertens recived a pass and found herself one-on-one with the Huskie keeper Jadyn Steinhauer ultimately stopped the chance.
The pressure still mounting, the Cougars finally found the back of the net. Third-year forward Erin Holt took matters into her own hands after goalkeeper Cailyn Leesonmade a key save to initiate the counter-attack. With the defence clearing the ball down the line and away from harm, Holt sprung down the wing and from a tight angle. She chipped the Huskie goalkeeper to give the home team an early advantage.
Huskies started pressing in their own right, forcing Leeson to show her best talents in the early point of the game. A lob was played for Taneil Gay on the far post and was standing alone. The wind caught the ball and gave the scrambling Cougar defence time to improvise into a formation. With bodies flying everywhere, Gay managed to strike the ball but a sprawling Leeson stopped a sure goal from going into the empty net.
Huskie midfielder Megan Ripplinger mimicked a Holt-like attempt inside the last couple of minutes of the half, but her chance sailed over Leeson and inches away from the post.
Holt's mark was the only goal for the half, giving her team a 1-0 edge going into the break.
Cougars started the half on the front-foot, almost scoring yet again just minutes into play. Julien Ramirez was on the receiving end of Holt's work after she dribbled around Steinhauer and slid a pass to her. Ramirez approached the shot with power but the ball had a slight bounce off the ground, the powerful strike rose over the empty net.
Saskatchewan's best chance of the half came from, who attempted to lob a pass into the box had the help of the wind carry the ball to the net, but nicked the woodwork and out.
Mertens managed to capitalize in the 68th minute off of a set piece, driving the ball low and past all the bodies and into the bottom corner to give the Cougars a 2-0 edge.
Eventual player-of-the-game Leeson won the game for the Cougars and was proven evident in the second half.
The Cougar netminder kept making clutch save after clutch save, blocking goal line attempts and one-one-ones and any other chance the desperate Huskies that came her way.
MRU went on to pick up a 2-0 victory against Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan travels to the province's capital to face the Alberta Pandas at 11 am while the Cougars finish off their homestand in an all-Cougars match against Regina with kickoff ready for 11 am.