There is no doubt about it, if you can trust in statistics, this year the St. Lawrence Laurentians would be the favourites to win the Challenge Cup. This season the Laurentians waltzed through the season and clinched the first place “Bobby Breen Memorial Trophy” at practically the mid-season mark. Is the Laurentians record really indicative of their strength and play? This is something I am about to answer as I look at the Laurentians and the competing teams that will play on Labour Day Weekend for the Challenge Cup.
Goaltending: The Laurentian goalkeeping duo is the best in the league. John Douglas has had a banner season and should be this year’s all-star goalkeeper. Although at this point in the season, Shane Etchegary’s strong goal keeping is leaving the Laurentians coaches with quite a difficult decision on who starts Friday.
Fullbacks: Clinton Edwards, Robert Kelly/ Ryan Slaney, Dr. Paul Slaney and Blair Aylward will make up the Laurentians back line. I sense there could be problems on the back line although Clinton Edwards is by far the greatest centre back in the province. The Laurentians coaches have done a complete juggling act with Robert and Ryan, but their failure to identify either one of the two as Clintons main partner show me that the coaching staff have been asking themselves questions about this position. Dr Paul has adapted well to left wing back position and has had a fairly steady season. The biggest question mark surrounding the Laurentians of 2004 is, “can the Laurentians right wing back, Captain Blair Aylward’s fitness level and body hold up and defend against the speed of his opponents?”
Midfield: The return of Andrew Perrott, combined with a gritty Chris Caines will solidify centre midfield. Adam Loder has emerged as the leagues most improved player in 2004 and should be an all-star. Young Paul Slaney has the talents of an all-star and has had some great moments displaying his speed and skill but he still needs to play with more intensity.
Forwards: Richard is back and once again he has become the leagues most creative goal scorer. Rudy can now take some pressure off himself and use the open space that Richard will create.
Despite the Laurentians incredible record, this is an interesting time for coaches Junior Edwards and Dereck Strang. Two consecutive years of losing in the “soccer capital” just doesn’t cut it. Now it’s time for both the Laurentian players and coaches to show that they got what it takes to be a wining combo.
Goaltending: Scott Edwards and Grant Abbott. This position could very well be Marystown’s Achilles heel. Marystown United’s number one goalkeeper Scott's Edwards stands at 6’ 4” and is a tower of strength in the air but his inability to get down on low shots as a result of his height and an old injury sustained in 1998, may ultimately determine Marystown’s fate.
Fullbacks: Marystown’s back line led by Captain Craig Edwards is solid. Juan Peddle and Colin Power's talents of shadowing opponents have been superb all season long. Chad Chislett’s much improved talents has continued to impress in 2004.
Midfield: Brian Francis, Patrick Fewer, Vince McDougall & Jeremy Taylor will patrol Marystown’s midfield. Brian Francis great goal scoring talents and his ability to elude the opposition with his one touch ball has been the best I’ve seen in years. The physical presence of Vince McDougall, combined with the tenacity of Jeremy Taylor and the many talents of Patrick Fewer to score goals and create open space, make them a dominating midfield.
Forwards: The leagues top goal scorer John Pickett has led Marystown’s offence. John is a gifted goal scorer, many times outsmarting the opposition with his diagonal runs, while Darrell’s strong work ethic and his talents keep the opposition back on their heels.
Over the years Coach Pickett has a way of making himself the centre of attention and he has done it again in 2004. His ability to secure funds from the Marystown Soccer Association to fly players to and from Nova Scotia and to persuade soccer officials to allow a second/third place club to co-host the provincial tournament demonstrates he’s got a lot of bargaining power at the board room level. Despite all this, Marystown must show that they can win on the field.
Goaltending: Gerald Connolly and Matthew Peddle. Gerald has been a great goalkeeper this season. It is because of Connolly’s superb goalkeeping that Mount Pearl has earned respectability. Full marks go to Gerald Connolly in proving his critics wrong.
Fullbacks: David Manning, Chad Parsons, Karl Reddy, and Gerry O’Brien. In addition to these players, I’ve seen Marc Acreman, Gord Ryan, John Kelly, David Bailey, and Bernie Manning play fullback this season. A coach must realize a team can’t form any type of cohesiveness as a unit when you are constantly changing the players and that’s exactly what I’ve seen Mount Pearl do this summer.
Midfield: John Acreman, Mark Reddy, Ian Power and Will Hearn. Shane Antle was brought in from Holy Cross to strengthen this position but things have gone from bad to worst for him as the year progressed. Early in the season he was given a suspension and then shortly after he returned, he suffered a broken collarbone. Next was the experiment to find a replacement for Antle. He was replaced in midfield by last years star, fullback John Kelly but John has looked totally out of place there. The remaining midfielders have played fairly decent playing under those circumstances.
Forwards: Alec Turpin may be the leader of this team but he must play with control. Ryan Caines has relegated another newcomer, Jimmy Fleming back on to the bench. Fleming hasn’t looked sharp at all while Caines is looking good as Alec’s partner.
I wouldn’t be totally shocked if it’s a Mount Pearl / St. Lawrence final but I’m sure Mount Pearl’s Coach Walt Mavin, win or lose, will feel relieved once this season is finally over. Mount Pearl should have stuck with the players that were with them all through out their career and not recruited or accepted the newcomers that tried to jump on their championship team.
Goaltending: Colin Doyle has been Holy Cross’s number one goalkeeper this season because Matthew Prim was concentrating on his university studies over the summer. Even though I’d be much surprised if Prim doesn’t get the call in the opening game, Matthew is capable of winning the opening game for Holy Cross by himself.
Fullbacks: Veteran, sweeper JB Delrizzo brings heart to this Holy Cross squad while Jeremy Babstock is showing great signs of a developing player with a bright future. Their wingbacks Craig Cameron and Blair Fleming are still on the rise.
Midfield: Holy Cross is led in midfield by Steve Croft and Mark Fleming where as Mark MacDonald and Zach Atwood have established themselves as starters on the wings
Forwards: Jay Babstock is the only player who has established himself on the Holy Cross forward line to any degree in 2004.Chad Moore’s status remains to be seen, whether an injury he sustained earlier this season will heal in time for him to have a significant role. Coach Rose has also taken to the field, playing forward for Holy Cross.
This team has got very little to lose but they are capable of pulling a major upset on Friday. Coach Marty Rose should concentrate solely on his coaching duties and find a place on the field rather than on the bench for young Chris Roche.
My prediction is a St. Lawrence Championship.
Strikers: Richard Kelly, Rudy Norman, Alec Turpin
Midfielders: Brian Francis, Patrick Fewer, Adam Loder
Fullbacks: Clinton Edwards, Craig Edwards, Karl Reddy, Jeremy Babstock
Goalie: John Douglas
Coach of the Year: Junior Edwards
League MVP: Clinton Edwards
Top Defender: Clinton Edwards
Most Gentleman and Effective Player: Brian Francis
Note: I would like to make the following correction. In my last article titled “Issues and Answers”, I stated that Connie Mercer was in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan as NLSA representative. Actually, I’ve been informed that while she was in Prince Albert, she was performing the duties of an Assistant Coach with the NL U-16 Girls team.
Gord Dunphy is a former 1990’s Challenge Cup All - Star coach of the St. Lawrence Laurentians and National Bronze Medallist. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com