Cameron Doherty, Huskie Athletics
SASKATOON – A pair of rookies combined for the lone goal and a shutout in the University of Saskatchewan Huskies 1-0 victory over the visiting Regina Cougars inside Nutrien Park on Oct. 6.
"I'm ecstatic for the girls, they have played so well and for a majority of our season we have been unlucky to not win," said Huskie head coach Jerson Barandica-Hamilton. "What a way to win, against a provincial rival with seven rookies in our starting lineup. I am so proud with the effort and quality with which they played."
Payton Izsak scored her fourth goal of the season in the 75th minute of play and Hope Pelk was solid in net to keep a clean sheet in what was the first Canada West start of her young career.
"What a game for her, she was thrown into the deep end and came out with a shutout," said Barandica-Hamilton of his rookie goalie. "Her distribution was phenomenal and she did a great job communicating and organizing the players in front of her."
Taylor Bubnick was all over the field for the Cougars and led the visitors with four shots in the game, while Kylie Bolton played exceptionally well in net for Regina, making seven saves in the contest.
The win was the first of the season for a Huskie squad that moves into fifth place in the Prairie Division with a record of 1-4-4. The team that they leapfrogged in the standings was Regina, who falls to 2-6-1 on the year.
A vast majority of the game saw Saskatchewan dictating the pace of play, pressing high up the field when they lost the ball in an effort to get it back quickly. For their part, the Cougars did well to soak up the Saskatchewan pressure and looked dangerous when counter-attacking on multiple occasions.
The first real scoring opportunity of the game came in the 11th minute when a free-kick from Jacqueline Altrogge was nodded on by Izsak into the path of Maya Gabruch. The forward from Saskatoon, SK unleashed a shot on net, but Bolton made one of her many fine saves in the game by kicking out her right leg and denying the scoring opportunity.
Battling back against the Huskies pressure it was Regina that had the next two clear chances in the game.
Both times Bubnick let a blast go from long range but Pelk did well to deal with the first effort, while the second sailed just barely over the top of the cross-bar.
All said it was Saskatchewan who carried the run of play in the first half, with the two teams entering break tied 0-0, but the Huskies outshooting the Cougars by a tally of 4-1.
Nikita Senko of Regina prevented the Huskies from getting on the board in the 52nd minute of play when she made a crucial sliding tackle to deny a cross into the box after what was a great run from Taneil Gay.
Regina came right back up the field and nearly opened the scoring just ten minutes later when a corner kick found the head of Grace Miller. Her effort towards goal was cleared off the line by Gabruch but with the ball still bouncing around the six-yard box, Pelk had to make a sprawling save to deny Amou Madol on the rebound.
The breakthrough in the game came in the 76th minute when Kalli Cowles played a beautifully weighted long-ball that Izsak got on the end of and tapped around a helpless Bolton and into the back of the net.
"She's been outstanding, it's not easy to score goals as a rookie in this league," said Barandica-Hamilton of Izsak. "She puts her body on the line, commits to everything and has been very versatile playing in the midfield and up top. She never stops and those are the players that we want."
From then on out Saskatchewan did a great job of bottling up Regina in their own half and were able to ride out the remaining minutes for the victory, something they struggled with during a run of four straight ties to begin their season.
"That shows that we have been learning from our mistakes. We are working hard in training to get better and the players believed in the process."
These same two teams are back in action for the return leg of the home-and-home series tomorrow, Oct. 7, at noon.