This goalie's a keeper

John
John Browne
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Crusaders' Thomas Pieroway shining in rookie campaign

His coach says Thomas Pieroway is the best young goalkeeper to come onto the local soccer scene since John Douglas.

Newfoundland's Thomas Pieroway (left) is about to gather the ball in a match against Quebec at the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que. Pieroway has made the adjustment from youth soccer to provincial men's Challenge Cup league play in style with five shutouts in his first nine games with Holy Cross Kirby Group Crusaders.

That’s pretty high praise, but Pieroway’s early-season statistics with Holy Cross Kirby Group Crusaders appear to back up all of the accolades the rookie has been getting this season in the Molson Coors Challenge Cup Soccer League.

Five shutouts in your team’s first nine games will always draw attention, but given the competitiveness of this year’s four-team league, that accomplishment is particularly impressive, especially for an 18-year-old.

“I expected him to do well because he’s such a quality keeper, but I didn’t think he’d have this much success so early in the season,” admitted Holy Cross coach Jake Stanford.

Stanford said he thought there’d be a couple of “little bumps” along they way, but he’s not surprised by him.

“He’s the best keeper I’ve seen. He’s a young John Douglas and Douglas’s quality is well known,” Stanford said in comparing his young keeper to the veteran St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians all-star.

“There hasn’t been a keeper as good as Pieroway in a long while.”

Pieroway, who was born in Corner Brook and moved to Conception Bay South when he was four, knew playing at the provincial Challenge Cup level would be a big jump from U18s.

“It’s been a big jump so far, but I’m playing behind an amazing group of fellas and I’ve been pretty fortunate so far to get those shutouts,” Pieroway said modestly.

The rookie said the “physicality” of the senior league is something he’s noticed already.

“I’m a pretty tall guy,” said the 6-4 Pieroway, “and it was a lot easier for me to come out and collect the ball last season, even to the 18-yard line.”

“Now it’s a challenge.”

He noted that playing for a perennial championship contender like Holy Cross certainly has it’s benefits.

‘We have a lot of key players and we’ve got so much firepower I know we’re going to score a lot of goals.”

Pieroway said he has to be on his toes, especially against the St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians.

“You can’t give them any space when they are attacking in our zone,” Pieroway said before checking off half the Laurentians as scoring threats.

“They are going to fire the ball and it’s going to be on goal,” said Pieroway, who has played for the province’s Canada Games team as well as Newfoundland’s entry in the national under-18 championships last year in St. John’s.

Pieroway also understands his Challenge Cup team expects to play for the crown each season, meaning solid goalkeeping will come into play when it counts the most.

“I know there’s a lot of pressure on me, but I’m not looking too far ahead. I’m more focused on our season than the playoffs at this point,” he said. “I know we can’t get complacent.”

Stanford said Pieroway, even though he is in his first season with a veteran team, has fit in quite well.

“He trains hard,” said the Holy Cross coach. “He’s dedicated. He’s well liked by his teammates. He’s grounded and he has all the technical skills. And, at 18 years old, he’s already a leader on this team.”

Surprising to Stanford is that Pieroway hasn’t been long-listed by a national youth team, although he suggests it may be just another case of a player from this province being overlooked.

That’s not happening here. Locally, there are a lot of people noticing Pieroway’s skills, including NLSA’s men’s vice-president Gord Dunphy.

“This young man has great potential,” said Dunphy recently. “He should have a great career ahead of him. His ability to read the play and anticipate where the ball is going to be is every bit as strong as his shot-stopping ability, which is superb.”

A handful of Atlantic University Sport (AUS) universities have also taken an interest in the young keeper.

No doubt the Memorial Sea-Hawks could use his skill set in AUS conference play after the Challenge Cup season, but it’s likely Pieroway will play for St. Francis Xavier X-Men instead this fall. The AUS soccer eason begins Sept. 5.

Pieroway, who has trained with Memorial, said he has signed a letter of intent to attend St. Francis University in Antigonish, N.S., although his acceptance to that school hasn’t been confirmed yet.

Along with MUN, the University of Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton University have also showed interest in Pieroway.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Holy Cross Kirby Group Crusaders, Molson Coors Challenge Cup Soccer League.Five, Atlantic University Sport Francis University University of Prince Edward Island Cape Breton University

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Laurentians, Newfoundland Antigonish

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