Glacier grinds it out

·4 min read

Oct. 20—One goal was all the Glacier Wolfpack needed to dispatch the Missoula Big Sky Eagles in a first round Class AA soccer playoff game Tuesday at Legends Stadium.

That goal came off the foot of senior Burke Fox on a penalty kick in the 38th minute.

Fox deferred all praise after the Pack's 1-0 win.

"Harrison (Sanders) ultimately won that PK for me. He put in a bunch of effort when he came on the field so all props should go to him. I just kind of just had to finish it up."

The game wasn't as close as the scoreboard might suggest — Glacier had 28 shots to Big Sky's two.

"It was not what we were expecting at all," Fox said. "We definitely came in thinking we were going to just roll them over, but learned that that's not true at all and just need to come back better."

Big Sky's keeper, Harley Bennett, made up some of the difference. Bennett came up with 9 saves.

"It would have been nice and a lot more comfortable for sure to finish that second, third or fourth goal like we had in the past against them, but having to hold a one-goal lead going into the quarterfinals is always helpful," Glacier coach Ryan Billiet said.

The real wrench in things was the on-field strategy deployed by Big Sky, who Glacier had defeated 4-0 and 6-0 earlier in the season.

"It definitely showed our team that not every game is going to be 7-0, 8-0, but we just need to come out every single game with the mentality that it's the best game of the season," Fox said.

Not only did the Eagles (1-13) set up differently on the field, they took a passive approach tactically, staying behind the ball instead of attacking. The team had clearly learned a few lessons from its previous meetings with Glacier and adjusted accordingly.

"They retreated deep defensively and really had a good game plan coming in on us," Billiet noted. "They've got one of the best keepers (Bennett) in the state, honestly, in terms of shot-stopping capabilities."

Glacier is looking at this game as a lesson — playoff games aren't always as wide open as ones in the regular season and sometimes hanging on to a one-goal lead and winning means you live to fight another day, even though you outshot the other team and their keeper grabbed everything.

It's a little bit uncomfortable, and is certainly a test of patience and fortitude. The Wolfpack passed this one with flying colors.

"The guys never got chippy, they never got frustrated with one another," Billiet said. "They continued to stay with the plan and executed it well. They had some good moments and a couple of them (shots) just missed the mark."

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Glacier's Zane Elliott (10) heads a ball upfield in the first half against Missoula Big Sky at Legends Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 19. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Glacier's Sullivan Coggins (7) looks to shoot in the second half against Missoula Big Sky at Legends Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 19. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Glacier's Joey Paolini (23) looks to shoot in the second half against Missoula Big Sky at Legends Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 19. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

Glacier (12-1-2) advances to a quarterfinal game Saturday against Gallatin, scheduled for 6 p.m. at Legends Stadium.

Gallatin defeated Eastern AA rival Belgrade 2-0 on Tuesday.

"It's so much fun this time of year where you don't know anything about the opponent," Billiet said. "It'll just be two teams entering the situation and problem solving and that's exactly what we're excited about. It'll be fun to just see somebody new and I'm sure it'll be for them too. We are so excited to host them as well and have an opportunity to hopefully continue to play the best."

Big Sky 0 0 — 0

Glacier 1 0 — 1

G — Burke Fox 38:00

Shots — Big Sky 2, Glacier 28. Goalie saves — Big Sky 9 (Harley Bennett), Glacier 0 (John Pyron). Corner kicks — Big Sky 0, Glacier 11. Fouls — Big Sky 9, Glacier 7. Cards — none.

Class AA playoffs

First round

Tuesday

Boys

East

1E Bozeman 10, 8E CMR 0

2E Billings West 2, 7E Great Falls 0

3E Gallatin 2, 6E Belgrade 0

4E Billings Senior 1, 5E Skyview 0

West

1W Hellgate 9, 8W Flathead 0

2W Glacier 1, 7W Big Sky 0

3W Helena Capital 4, 6W Butte 0

5W Sentinel 1, 4W Helena 0

Girls

West

1W Helena 10, 8W Butte 0

2W Hellgate 5, 7W Big Sky 0

3W Sentinel 6, 6W Flathead 0

5W Helena Capital 3, 5W Glacier 2

East

1E Billings West 7, 8E Great Falls 0

2E Gallatin 6, 7E Belgrade 1

3E Billings Senior 4, 6E CMR 2

4E Bozeman 1, 5E Skyview 0

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