With Labour Day Weekend just about upon us, it’s time for me to turn my attention to evaluating the teams and make predictions on what you are about to see in this year’s Provincial Senior Men’s Challenge Cup play-offs.
St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians:
It’s no doubt the St. Lawrence Laurentians are the league’s best, but the margin of difference between them and their opponents in 2008 is not as great as it has been in previous years. All-star Mike Howlett is the team’s leader and a tower of strength up front, but the reality is the Laurentians are lacking a big time finisher and as a result, their goal scoring production is way down this season. Coach Strang’s system of using only one striker has hurt the Laurentians’ attack. What amazes me is, despite all the raw talent the Laurentians have, this team has averaged less than two goals a game. I must add St. Lawrence does have a fairly impressive record with only one loss, but the real statistic to take note of is 40 per cent of Laurentians’ games have ended in ties, which prove the other three teams are very close, and on a given day anything could happen. Their mid-field is led by all-stars Rudy Norman and Clinton Edwards. Marc Pittman is the Laurentians’ quarterback on the backfield while former mid-fielders Ryan Slaney and Paul Slaney have adjusted nicely to their backfield positions. Unquestionably the Laurentians’ goalkeeper John Douglas is the best goalie in the league, but at times he can be a bit erratic.
Feildians Ernst & Young Orenda:
Feildians are the league’s most improved team this season. The team’s forte is their defensive unit, which includes goaltender Matthew Prim and a solid backline consisting of John Acreman, Ryan Sheppard, Steve Howell and Colin Browne.
John Acreman and Colin Browne certainly have had all-star seasons. David Webb has led the team and has had a career year. He leads the Feildians’ mid-field while Ian Power, Chris Burry and Steve Croft are solid performers.
The team’s weakness is its offence, which could be its demise. Neither striker on the Feildians’ squad cracks the top ten goal scorers. Only midfielder David Webb, with his eight goals fits in this category.
I understand Kevin Oram’s injury has hurt his goal production. After the completion of this weekend the Feildians are going to realize what their second place finish really meant.
Mount Pearl/That Pro Look/Molson:
Mount Pearl has had a very disappointing season. Gerald Connolly has not performed at a level that he has in previous seasons. Fullbacks Victor Dray and John Kelly have missed a considerable amount of playing time. The normal steady Marc Reddy just hasn’t been himself.
Players Justin Pickford, Shane Antle, Andrew Murphy and Andrew Moyst are Mount Pearl’s only regular players that have performed with any degree of consistency. Upfront, the lost of Sean Drew will hurt the team’s attack but Mount Pearl’s Justin Pickord is the league’s biggest scoring threat. He is by far the league’s fastest forward, works hard and is good with both feet.
Mount Pearl will go as far as Pickford carries them. He must play smarter than he has in the past two years to avoid getting himself in card trouble. Mount Pearl does have the potential of putting together a strong weekend.
Holy Cross/Kirby & Co:
Holy Cross can push the Laurentians this weekend if they get the opportunity, but they are also the league’s most inconsistent team. I’ve seen Cross play probably the top games this summer, but I’ve also seen them play awful.
The loss of their number one goalie Tyler Putt and their ace striker Jon Hawco, who is the team’s leading goal scorer, may hurt their overall final results. Holy Cross coaches will have a big decision to make between the starting of goalkeeper Scott Edwards or Colin Doyle. My bet here is on Scott Edwards.
Their defensive unit, which is led by Ryan Yetman and Andre Le, can play ball but at times they lose concentration and their focus becomes hindered. Karl Reddy and Brian Reddy generally play a fairly steady game.
Holy Cross is led in midfield by all-star Jeremy Babstock, who brings a high level of intensity to the game. This is one guy who plays with heart. I like his attitude and the level of passion he brings to the game. His talented mid-field partner Jon Lacey has had some good games, but he still needs to get his nose dirty and show a stronger enthusiasm to win.
Zack Wade has improved tremendously and he has had a very good season. Chris Budger and Zack Atwood are steady. Striker Corey Moore has been plagued by a pulled hamstring all season. This may also hurt Holy Cross’s attack.
Holy Cross will be playing at home and my bet is they are going to be ready. I’m expecting Holy Cross to put together a great tournament.
Game One: 1st seed vs. 2seed: St. Lawrence vs. Feildians This will be a very one-sided affair, with the Laurentians blowing the Feildians away.
Predicted Score: St. Lawrence 5 - Feildians 0
Game Two: 3rd seed vs. 4th seed: Mount Pearl vs. Holy Cross You could flip a coin and make this call. I realize this game could go either way, but I will give the edge to Holy Cross. I wouldn’t be shocked if this game went to overtime.
Predicted Score: Holy Cross 2 - Mount Pearl 1
Semi Final Game: Feildians vs. Holy Cross After the semi-final game the Feildians will be devastated. Holy Cross will cruise to an easy victory, but the final score will be very close.
Predicted Score: Holy Cross 2 - Feildians 1
Championship Game: St. Lawrence vs. Holy Cross Every so often for the past number of years, an underdog team has pulled a major upset on the Laurentians in the championship game. Could Holy Cross pull one those upsets this year? I feel this game will be a very close affair, but when the final whistle blows the Laurentians will again be drinking champagne from the Challenge Cup.
Predicted Score: St. Lawrence 2 - Holy Cross 0
Coach’s Corner Award Winners:
Challenge Cup All-Star Team
Goal: John Douglas
Full-backs: Marc Pittman, John Acreman, Colin Browne, Paul Slaney
Mid-field: Rudy Norman, Jeremy Babstock, Clinton Edwards, David Webb
Forwards: Mike Howlett, Justin Pickford
Top Defender: Marc Pittman, St. Lawrence
Most Spirited Player: Jeremy Babstock, Holy Cross
Rookie of the Year: Chris Burry, Feildians
League MVP: Mike Howlett, St. Lawrence
Coach of the Year: Pat Kennedy, Feildians
Good luck to all!