Ben Matchett, Dinos Communications
CALGARY – Amy Mikuska's set piece goal in the 83rd minute was the difference as the University of Calgary Dinos extended their win streak to 14 games and, more importantly, advanced to the Canada West Final Four with a 2-1 victory over the Saskatchewan Huskies Sunday at McMahon Stadium.
Mikuska's free kick from just outside the penalty area sailed straight and true to the left of the wall, beating Huskies 'keeper Jadyn Steinhauer to the right to put the Dinos one win away from the national tournament in Ottawa after a hotly-contested playoff game.
The response by the Dinos came 15 minutes after the Huskies had tied it up 1-1. Following a controversial foul call, McKenna Olson lifted her free kick from 35 yards out that Calgary 'keeper Lauren Houghton got her hands on but was unable to corral, watching it fly behind her into the goal.
But as they have all season, the Dinos found a way. Playing with mounting pressure in the Huskies' end, Calgary was rewarded with a corner, followed by a free kick of their own – and Mikuska made no mistake.
"The simple response would be 'wow,'" said Dinos Head Coach Troye Flannery. "I think I aged a bit there. We do a bunch of mental skills work with this group, and I think some of those skills and habits paid off.
"I thought our game-changers came into the game and did a great job, they let us settle down a little with the ball. It was a spirited match, playoff soccer always is, and full credit to the Huskies."
The visitors, who advanced to the quarter-final with a 2-0 win over Victoria Friday afternoon at McMahon, were the aggressors to start the match, playing the first 15 minutes largely on Calgary's end of the field and forcing Houghton to be sharp. Calgary brought it back to balance for the final 20 of the opening 45, and the teams headed to the break in a scoreless draw.
Saskatchewan had a glorious opportunity to score the game's first goal when Maya Gabruch leaked behind the Calgary defence and stood staring at a wide open cage from five yards away and Houghton diving to her right to get back. But Gabruch's shot sailed up and over through the football uprights as the Dinos breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Just over a minute later, the Dinos got on the board. Montana Leonard scored Calgary's first of the contest in the 50th minute after Sienna Prince-McPherson lifted a nifty feed over a defender, and Leonard made no mistake.
After Mikuska scored the game-winner, the Huskies had one more glorious chance to score. In stoppage time, Hannah Gannitsos-Clark got her head on a corner kick at the far post from point-blank range, but Calgary defender Damiane Sawatzky stepped in the ball's path and cleared it to safety.
Both Houghton and Steinhauer made six saves on the day, with the Dinos holding a slight edge in shots at 12-9 and in corners, 6-3.
Calgary moves on to the Canada West Final Four at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. next weekend, where they will face the UBC Thunderbirds in a conference semifinal Friday at 7 p.m. MT. The winner will advance to the Canada West Final Saturday, along with the U SPORTS national championship Nov. 8-11 at the University of Ottawa.
Photo by David Moll