With just two matches remaining in the regular season, Carl Bridwell feels like his team is heading in the right direction. But Belgrade’s first-year coach was not satisfied with Saturday’s result.
For the second consecutive match the Panthers failed to score a goal. However, they did not allow one either in a scoreless Eastern AA draw against Billings Senior.
Belgrade (2-5-3) had also battled Billings West to a scoreless draw Friday at home. But having beat the Broncs earlier this season, Bridwell was disappointed with a tie in the rematch.
“We’re taking steps in the right direction not losing, but tying. However, some ties taste better and sometimes taste worse,” he said. “This one was not rewarding or satisfactory.”
The contest was originally scheduled to take place at Amend Park, but moved to Daylis Stadium due to a lack of available fields. Daylis features an artificial surface, something that gave the Panthers trouble during their time playing against Laurel in Class A.
“Playing on the turf we have some trauma from that back in the days of single A,” said Bridwell. “(But) we played really well. Passed to feet, moved off the ball and we had an early chance through Dalani (Brayton).”
Brayton played a through ball on the ground to Makena Morris in the first half, but the ensuing shot was well off target.
“She (Morris) was on her left foot and just skied it through the goalpost,” Bridwell explained. “From there they got a lot more defensive and the would just kick and turn, and play long balls. The put us on the back foot, especially with the bounce and speed of the play on a turf field.”
Keeper McKenzie Turner, who finished with 10 saves, helped preserve the shutout for the Panthers with a key save late in the match.
“McKenzie made some clutch saves late,” said Bridwell. “She had one where an outside wing sent the ball in on the ground and their forward didn’t actually get a touch, so she was trying to predict a deflected shot, but didn’t have to. She made a great save pushing it around.”
Billings Senior (1-6-2) recorded 15 shots on goal, while the Panthers had 10.
“We had a few chances to capitalize, but we just couldn’t put it away unfortunately,” said Bridwell.
Belgrade travels to Great Falls Tuesday to play CMR in a make up match, and then wraps up the regular season Thursday at Bozeman.
Belgrade boys bounce back, but lose to Broncs
After allowing a dozen goals in a home loss to Billings West Friday, Belgrade bounced back with a solid defensive effort on the road Saturday against Billings Senior.
The Panthers didn’t allow a goal in the first 65 minutes of the contest before losing the conference match 3-0.
“Overall we played really well. Our defensive shape was awesome today,” Belgrade coach Jeff DeBuse said. “We had some opportunities to score. We just couldn’t convert one.”
Billings Senior (5-3-0) broke the scoreless deadlock following a foul in the box by the Panthers.
“We gave up a PK and that really just kind of shifted the momentum for that last 15 minutes,” DeBuse said. “Especially because we had to start really pushing forward to try and get one back, and then we ended up letting in a couple more.”
Senior Nathan Haycock returned to the lineup after sitting out Friday’s match due to a red card and helped the Panthers create several offensive opportunities in the midfield.
“It was nice having him in there to win balls and distribute, and Christian (Aitchison) did really well in the center distributing out wide,” said DeBuse. “We were able to find Sam (Waller) and Sean (Smith), our outside mids, quite a bit to kind of spread them out.”
Belgrade (0-10-0) wraps up the regular season with road matches at Great Falls CMR on Tuesday and at Bozeman on Thursday.
Belgrade 0, Billings Senior 0
Belgrade 0 0 - 0
Billings Senior 0 0 - 0
Shots: Bel 10, BS 15. CK: Bel 1, BS 8. Fouls: Bel 2, BW 6. Saves: Bel 10 (McKenzie Turner), BS 3.
Billings Senior 3, Belgrade 0
Belgrade 0 0 - 0
Billings Senior 0 3 - 3
Scoring and stats were unavailable.