CALGARY, AB - The Dinos mens' soccer team maintained their positive start to the season with a 2-0 victory over the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on Sunday at West Varsity Pitch.
The Dinos, who had a bye in the first week of league action, now sit at 2-0-0 in a three-way tie for second in the Canada West prairies division. The Huskies fall to 2-2-0 and also sit tied for second place.
Both teams were coming off positive performances on Saturday, with the Dinos winning their season opener against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns and the Huskies beating the Mount Royal University Cougars 2-1.
The win was good revenge for the Dinos, who fell to the Huskies in both matches last year. The Huskies topped the prairies division of Canada West in 2014 with a 9-1-2 record in the regular season, just ahead of the second place Dinos (9-3-0.)
The Dinos' afternoon got off to the perfect start, with a penalty shot goal in just the fourth minute. Right back Chris Genee played a ball forward to forward Dominic Russo, who turned his mark and played a quick give and go before being brought down by defender Garrett Peters inside the Huskies' 18 yard box. Midfielder Robin Whittaker took the spot kick, side-footing the ball past Huskies keeper Greg Buckley into the bottom left corner.
Despite the Dinos' lead, the first half was a tight affair. The Huskies played their usual possession-based game, while the Dinos took a more direct approach, often playing balls down the wing into space.
"We wanted to take the game to them," said Dinos head coach Brendan O'Connell. "We did our homework on [Saskatchewan] and knew they played with three at the back. We wanted to play a 4-3-3 and give them some pressure."
Goal scorer Whittaker looked positive for the home side, using his height to win balls in the air. For the Huskies, it was right back Fabian Dale who had a strong presence.
The Dinos had a good chance to double their lead in the 26th minute. Peters misplaced his first touch, allowing Russo through, but the forward shot over from just inside the Huskies' box.
Shortly after, momentum swung toward the Huskies. Winger Tyler Redl struck two long-distance shots in the 34th and 35th minutes. His first shot forced a diving save from Dinos keeper Colin Hasick and his second sailed just over.
Dinos center back Dominic Zator came close to doubling the home side's lead shortly before the break. First year midfielder Cristiano De Carvalho crossed a free kick into the Huskies' box, but the Dinos captain headed just over.
The score was still 1-0 at halftime, with either team looking capable of winning it.
The second half played out much like the first, with both teams cancelling each other out. Early in the half, the Huskies forwards forced good saves from Dinos keeper Colin Hasick, who finished the game with three saves.
The game looked set to finish 1-0, until Russo stole a goal in the 90th minute, spoiling the Huskies' chances of a comeback. Dinos winger Lindon Fedorick beat his man on the right wing, before sliding a pass across the face of goal. Russo ghosted in to meet the ball and one-timed a shot past Buckley on his short side.
The Dinos can be pleased with a clean sheet against a Huskies offense that scored 44 goals in league play last year. They are the first team to shut out the Huskies this season.
"Our main objective in the second half was to keep a clean sheet and we did that. I thought our two center halves were different class," said O'Connell.
The Dinos travel to Edmonton next weekend, where they will have tough away fixtures against the University of Alberta Golden Bears and the Grant MacEwan University Griffins.
"We don't want to banana-skin with anybody but Alberta is leading the way and that's going to be a big crunch game," said O'Connell. "At the minute, all we're thinking about is rest and recovery and we'll reassess on Wednesday and Thursday."