Coach's Corner

Bronze Medal for the 2007 Laurentians

Southern Gazette Oct. 23. 2007

By Gord Dunphy

gorddunphy@email.com


Bronze Medal for the 2007 Laurentians

What a tournament the St. Lawrence Laurentians had in 2007 at the Senior Men’s Challenge Cup Tournament played in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Thanksgiving Day Weekend!

What a display of soccer the fans witnessed! And what a party the fans had!

During the tournament, I observed a gutsy soccer team, a proud community and a province that was swollen with pride because we saw a team fighting to prove it had what it takes to be the best amateur soccer team in Canada.

SLOW START

At the beginning, there were lowlights. In game one, St. Lawrence received a 4-1 shellacking at the hands of the Alberta Callies.

The starting line-up in this game for St. Lawrence saw Marc Pittman and Robert Kelly play in the center back position, while Blair Aylward and Clinton Edwards were assigned to wing back duties. Starting in center midfield were Ryan Slaney and Rudy Norman, while Paul Slaney and Adam Loder were assigned to start in their regular right and left wing field positions respectively. Up front it was Mike Howlett and Richard Kelly.

The Callies destroyed this line-up, beating the Laurentians in every aspect of the game. The only bright spot in this game was a beautiful goal scored by the Laurentians Richard Kelly.

TURNING POINT

Then came game two, with St. Lawrence suffering another setback. This time it was a 1-0 lost to the Quebec representatives. But with this loss, came what very well may have been described as the turning point of the tournament.

The Laurentians launched an official protest to the Canadian Soccer Association as the result of what the Laurentians described as a whistle blown by the referee before the Quebec goal was scored. St. Lawrence felt the play should have been stopped and a penalty shot rewarded to Quebec, not a goal as he had allowed.

The officials appointed by the CSA heard this protest and agreed with St. Lawrence. A ruling was made this match was to be re-played. The contest was to be played Saturday, Oct. 8 in the afternoon.

LINE-UP CHANGES

It was this contest against Quebec that set the stage for the rest of the tournament. Laurentians’ coach Derek Strang was compelled to juggle his original starting line-up as a result of an injury suffered by Adam Loder in game one, that would see Adam sidelined for the remainder of the tournament.

Against Quebec, Strang started Robert Kelly on the left wing back position where Robert would play the best soccer of his career. Clinton Edwards was moved into the middle portion of the field, which made him a much more valuable player to his team. Ryan Slaney was moved back into the center back position with Marc Pitman, where both of them would become standouts.

Darren Pike began to see regular duty in the midfield position where he displayed a strong physical presence. Rudy Norman was moved to the outside, an area he dominated. Richard Kelly saw regular duty in the midfield where he showcased his super play making skills. Joe Cechenni and Mike Howlett would star up front.

Andrew Perrott, Jonathan Pickett and Sean Edwards would perform role duty and they did it to perfection.

St. Lawrence vs. New Brunswick/Quebec

As the result the outcome of the protest, I would definitely say St. Lawrence got a big break and there’s no doubt it was not going to waste it. The team made history in itself by having to play two contests on one day. Never before at a Senior Men’s National Tournament did any club have to play two games on one day.

At 10 o’clock Saturday, Oct. 6 the Laurentians destroyed an undefeated New Brunswick team. Actually they creamed New Brunswick, waltzing their way to a 4-0 victory. They were led by the superb goaltending of John Douglas and a two-goal effort generated by Mike Howlett with single makers coming from the efforts of Rudy Norman and Richard Kelly.

Then, at 5 o’clock that day, just a mere five hours later, St. Lawrence was back on the field to play against the Quebec entry. By now the fans were buzzing and Quebec felt it had the opportune chance to get back points it felt were stolen. But no way were the Laurentians having any part of this.

In this contest, St. Lawrence dug, dug and dug, displaying character, displaying determination and displaying heart, something Laurentians teams of the 50s, 60s and 70s based a winning tradition on. In the end it was Mike Howlett who let a shot go I can still remember, saying to Russ Murphy, who was doing the play by play as I was doing the color commentary, “it’s no longer ‘Bend it like Beckham’. Now it’s, ‘Bend it like Howlett’.”

What a shot it was and it was this shot that led us to a 1-0 victory. What a victory, what a great day for St. Lawrence soccer. It was two victories in one day at a National Tournament.

I still get chills in my spine as I think about that goal. This was an amazing feat to say the least, as the fans stood in line by the Laurentians’ dressing room to applaud the team’s effort at the end of the game. It was totally remarkable.

St. Lawrence vs. Prince Edward Island

This contest had St. Lawrence looking for victory or a tie that would put them into the Bronze Medal game. Again, the Laurentians came up with another courageous effort. It was John Douglas leading the way with his third consecutive shutout and the goal scoring talents of Mike Howlett and Paul Slaney, leading St. Lawrence to a 2-0 victory and a third straight shut out victory.

Bronze Medal Contest

No, bronze is not gold, but maybe it’s only the efforts of a team from St. Lawrence that would bring the players to exhaustion for a bronze medal victory. That’s exactly what St. Lawrence did when they competed against Nova Scotia in this game.

The Laurentians performed, giving it their all. At times they toyed with Nova Scotia, displaying a high level of soccer skill. At times the Laurentians struggled to keep their legs moving but in the end, it was the fans that kept pushing and applauding the boys in blue. St. Lawrence fans love victory and combine this with the effort of the Laurentians’ players, they defeated Nova Scotia by a 2-1 score on goals scored by Richard Kelly and Paul Slaney to clinch a National Bronze Medal.

TEAM EFFORT

With this medal, I observed a superb effort by the St. Lawrence Laurentians’ starters, a splendid effort by the Laurentians’ bench players and terrific support by the fans of St. Lawrence who attended the games. After each game, it was a class act to see the entire Laurentian team jog to the fans’ side of the soccer field to applaud the fans for their support.

To others who may have tuned in to CHCM 740, Radio Newfoundland 930 or via the internet, I hope you enjoyed this magnificent tournament as much as I did. This set the stage for a great year in 2008!

Dunphy’s Details: Coach’s Corner 2007 Award Winner – Richard Kelly.

Congratulations on a job well done again this season to the St. Lawrence Masters – Eastern Canadian Champs and to the BPSA Boys who seeded 6th at the National Under-18 Tournament.