Labour Day weekend was a great weekend of soccer. The Senior Men’s Challenge Cup tournament proved this league does have a future. All clubs came to play and they performed at a very high level.
Here’s an assessment of how I saw each team perform.
St. John’s Holy Cross:
In its opening game against Marystown, Holy Cross went on the attack early by scoring three goals in the opening period. Holy Cross showed Marystown it was not one bit pleased with its 1-0 lost they suffered to them in 2005. In the second period, Holy Cross allowed Marystown to get back in the game but at the closing whistle the team had prevailed, sending it to the semi-final game against Mount Pearl.
Game 2 for Holy Cross showed this team is on the move. It fought the Mount Pearl team to death’s end. Players showed the heart former Holy Cross teams played with. However, the team came up a little short by losing to Mount Pearl 2-1, losing on a golden goal at the 110 minute mark.
Coach’s Corner Comments: The Holy Cross playoff performances against Marystown and Mount Pearl proved it can compete with the top clubs in the province. Its greatest player, Jon Hawco, proved he truly is a provincial super-star. Goalkeeper Colin Doyle has silenced his critics by proving he is a legitimate keeper. Coaches Fox Reddy and John Breen have built a strong foundation for this Holy Cross team and opponents will have to watch out for them in the near future.
Mount Pearl/That Pro Look/ Molson:
Mount Pearl had a great tournament. In its opening game against St. Lawrence, it was certainly a handful for the Laurentians in the first period. Actually it was early in the game Mount Pearl took a one goal lead. But its failure, or inability to maintain a lead, eventually cost them. As a result of Mount Pearl giving up three consecutive goals, it lost its opener by a 3-1 score.
In their second game, with David Manning and Ian Power reinstated as starters, Mount Pearl played tough. It managed to maintain and hold off a very hungry Holy Cross team, a team that felt it had something to prove. But in the end, it was Mount Pearl’s goal scoring ace, Justin Pickford, ensuring a 2-1 victory that sent the Holy Cross team packing. It may have been the physical and mental drain of this game that resulted in the Laurentians ‘come from behind’ 2-1 victory in the championship game.
Coach’s Corner Comments: Mount Pearl’s Justin Pickford proved he is a scoring machine. But if there was one man whose personal performance stole the show and won the heart of many fans in this tournament, it was Gerald Connolly. His goalkeeping performance was spectacular and it ranks up with that of two goaltending greats I know – Al Slaney of St. Lawrence and Rod Drake of Lawn.
Marystown United Mariners:
In Marystown’s game against Holy Cross, it fell behind early and the goals were coming fast and furious. Holy Cross dominated Marystown and their scores of 3-0 and then 4-1 at one point, made Marystown look like a complete no-show. But you must give Marystown credit. In the second period it fought its way back to trail by a very slim 4-3 margin with 15 minutes left. The only thing was this year Holy Cross had become too powerful for Marystown. Holy Cross finally conquered Marystown with a final score of 5-3.
Coach’s Corner Comments: Marystown’s performance was somewhat mediocre but maybe that’s the best one should expect from this team, considering its miserable showing in Round One. Its reward, in making it to the top four by defeating Burin and Feildians, was probably more than they were worthy of. Marystown will struggle to have a team in 2007 but for now I would like to salute the Edwards boys (Craig and Scott), and the Stewarts (Darrell and David) for their involvement in the game of soccer for the past several years.
St. Lawrence Laurentians:
The Laurentians in Game 1 were on a mission. First and foremost they wanted to defeat Mount Pearl and advance directly to the finals and secondly, did not want to face Holy Cross in the semi-final game. It accomplished this mission to perfection by beating Mount Pearl by a convincing score of 3-1. The champions defeated Mount Pearl in every aspect of the game because every Laurentian that stepped onto the field gave it his all. They wore the Laurentian logo with pride and they played with desire.
In the championship match, Mount Pearl played host to St. Lawrence again, but it was the Laurentians who proved they have the best team in Newfoundland and Labrador. They defeated the host team by a 2-1 margin, scoring two beautiful goals after Justin Pickford opened the score for Mount Pearl with a super goal of his own. But the ‘goal of his career’ by Blair Aylward, and a marvellous shot by young Marc Pittman was all the Laurentians could get past the super goaltending of Gerald Connolly. Again, in the Championship game, the Laurentians defeated Mount Pearl in every aspect of the game, but Mount Pearl did give it their all.
Coach’s Corner Comments: The key to the Laurentians’ victory is they know how to win the big game! The town expects them to win and nothing less than a Challenge Cup Championship is accepted.
Congratulations Boys! Good Luck at the Nationals. See you in Surrey, British Columbia.