As I witnessed the Laurentians compete at the 2005 National Challenge Cup Championship and go winless and scoreless, it is very evident that sometimes when one says very little, he says a lot.
Maybe the stats say more than how I can describe what happened to the Laurentians at this National tournament. In any case, I will give you a summary of what I saw while I joined with CHCM's Russ Murphy who did the live play by play of the games as I assisted him doing the colour commentary.
As I said in my pre-tournament article, the outcome of game one could very well decide the Laurentians fate at this year nationals. The Laurentians came out in this game knowing full well that they needed a victory over the Green and Gold team from Edmonton to have any chance of vying for any sort of medal contention this year. Alberta had played their opening game a day earlier with a convincing 4-0 trashing of British Columbia.
When the game began the Laurentians looked rather strong. They challenged and ran with Alberta, and as a matter of fact, they defended their own end very strongly during the first period. Although the score ended in a 0-0 draw the Laurentians had had a couple of excellent scoring chances to open the scoring. The first period certainly saw the Laurentians play a very strong defensive system and play on par with Alberta. The Laurentians's system worked well. The players were totally focused and their goalkeeper, John Douglas had a great period, too. The 250-300 Laurentian fans that were in attendance for this game were enthused for the game as well.
When the second period began St. Lawrence still continued to hold their own. They were very composed, but as the time went on, I could see that that the Laurentians stamina was diminishing. Alberta were moving the ball much more freely. They began constantly pressuring St. Lawrence and as time approached the 70 minute mark Douglas made a major blunder by punching at a ball that he could have very easily caught. Douglas error caused the ball to go directly to a wide open opponent. The Alberta player looked at the wide open Laurentian goal. There was no arguing this guy had received a gift and he gladly accepted it. He kicked the ball, directing it into the Laurentians open net. This goal stunned the Laurentians players and it shocked the St. Lawrence fans. While everyone keep shaking their heads and were chatting about this dreadful goal Alberta again moved the ball back up the field and scored a second goal. This further shocked St. Lawrence and it was quite evident this game appeared over. Furthermore, the Laurentian coach then removed Clinton Edwards out to play midfield from his backline position. Strang's move of going with all out offensive allowed a very wide open counter-attack by Alberta as they constantly pressured and freely maneuvered in the Laurentians zone. Alberta began constantly attacking at this point.
Luckily enough, in the dying moments it was a combination of the outstanding goaltending by Douglas and Alberta misses on their numerous scoring opportunities that kept the score remaining 2-0 at the end of the contest.
This contest would decide who would win 2nd place in Division A, because by now Alberta had defeated both entries from Newfoundland and British Columbia. British Columbia opened this game in fine form. They waltzed through this match from the opening whistle, looking much more stronger than their opponent. British Columbia scored two goals in the opening period and added another two in the second half for a 4-0 shutout victory. This 4-0 triumph had left no doubt that the British Columbia representatives were superior to St. Lawrence. If it were not for the exceptional goaltending of John Douglas in the second period, the score would have been much worse. Both young Paul Slaney, Blair Aylward and John Douglas were certainly the Laurentians key performers in this contest.
In this match St. Lawrence were still looking for their first victory and their first goal of the tournament. Strangely enough, if the Laurentians were to gain a victory in this contest it would be the Laurentians substitutes who were going to have and lead the way. When this game started, five of the Laurentians regular players were to start this game on the bench. Leading the way on the bench for the Laurentians was league MVP and top goal scorer Richard Kelly, followed by the leagues All -Star goalkeeper, John Douglas. Chris Caines, Adam Loder and a injured Blair Aylward also were spectators watching this game in their warm up suits.
No doubt others were now given the opportunity to start but before the game was 10 minutes old Manitoba took advantage of this starting line-up. A miscue by the backline and very poor defensive communications resulted in Brian Stanford, Laurentians starting keeper, to watch in dismay as the ball was slowly kicked and went by him into the back of St. Lawrence's goal. This earlier goal appeared to wound the Laurentians. They played the remainder of the period showing very little emotion.
The second period saw the Laurentians starters return to the field but nothing would change as Manitoba would score again midway in the second period and hold on to a 2-0 victory. To add further disappointment, Rudy Norman received a very suspect red card and was ejected from the game. As a result Rudy was also suspended for the Laurentians final game.
Actually, it was Laurentians goal keeper who was their key performer again. Brian Stanford made several key saves to put in a very respectable performance considering the circumstances that he encountered.
A victory in this contest would give St. Lawrence 11th place and a loss would put them dead last. The final result was a 1-0 loss to New Brunswick. The 12th place finish by the Laurentians is definitely a summary in itself of the tournament considering that the team from Yukon picked up their first victory in National Challenge Cup Competition by defeating New Brunswick in a earlier contest and finished ahead of our Newfoundland and Labrador representatives.
Gord Dunphy is a former 1990ís Challenge Cup All - Star coach of the St. Lawrence Laurentians and National Bronze Medallist. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org