Gauntlet thrown down

John
John Browne
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Molson Challenge Cup men's season opens today in St. Lawrence and Corner Brook

Holy Cross soccer coach Jake Stanford realizes his team is going to find out what it's like to be the St. Lawrence Laurentians this season.

"We have a big target on our back this year," said Stanford. "I don't think we are going to catch any teams off guard this time around like we did last year."

The Molson Provincial Challenge Cup senior mens soccer league season kicks-off in St.?Lawrence and Corner Brook this weekend. Seen here in this 2009 file photo, Mount Pearls Andrew Murphy (5) prepares to give the ball a ride while being closely watched by

Holy Cross soccer coach Jake Stanford realizes his team is going to find out what it's like to be the St. Lawrence Laurentians this season.

"We have a big target on our back this year," said Stanford. "I don't think we are going to catch any teams off guard this time around like we did last year."

What Holy Cross/Kirby Group did last year was finish in first place before going on to defeat St. Lawrence for the Molson Challenge Cup Soccer League championship, the Crusaders' first in 15 years.

After posting a 13-2-3 regular-season record, the Crusaders went on to defeat Mount Pearl 3-1 in overtime in the semifinal before blanking the Laurentians 1-0, again in overtime.

The 2010 Molson Challenge Cup soccer schedule opens today with games scheduled for Centennial Field in St. Lawrence and Wellington Street Complex in Corner Brook.

Western United FC Rugged Edge play host to Holy Cross at 7 p.m., while St. John's U-18s Capital Hyundai travel to St. Lawrence to play the Laurentians at 6 p.m.

The other teams in the league are Mount Pearl/That Pro Look/Molson, Feildians/Ernst and Young/Orenda, Conception Bay Auto Strikers FC and the St. John's U-18 squad which will play only 18 games and is not eligible for the playoffs. All other teams play 23 games each.

The 78-game schedule continues Sunday with Holy Cross playing Western United at noon, Strikers meeting Feildians at King George V Park at 2 p.m. at St. John's U18s against the Laurentians at 2 p.m.

"Obviously, Holy Cross will be competitive again this year," said Stanford, "but are we going to win? I can't say for sure, but our goal is to get back to the final."

Careful not to step on anyone's toes, Stanford said St. Lawrence, Feildians, Mount Pearl and Corner Brook, "played really well last year. And The U-18s are full of piss and vinegar when we play them.

"St. Lawrence will play host the playoffs this year, and there's a lot of pride down there. The Laurentians are going to be difficult to knock off in St. Lawrence. We'll see how our younger players respond to that pressure, because it's going to be different for sure.

"Our goal is to win it again, so we'll see. I won't say we're definitely going to win. I won't go that far," Stanford said laughing. "But we really want to make it back to a national championship."

Here's a look at the teams battling for the 2010 Molson Challenge Cup soccer championship:

HOLY CROSS KIRBY GROUP CRUSADERS

Coach: Noel "Jake" Stanford

2009 record: 13-2-3 (1st)

Who's back: Just about everybody, including Jeremy Babstock, Chris Pope, Zack Wade, Aaron Anstey, Andrew Stanford, Jon Hawco and Corey Moore.

Who's gone: Jon Lacey, Craig Edwards

Newcomers: Midfielder Matthew Breen and forward Scott Woodfine from the Canada Games team. Jay Babstock, who played for Feildians last year, is with the red and gold this time around.

Quote: "Our first game is against Western United and I hope our players remember they were not push overs in Corner Brook last season." - Jake Stanford.

Prediction: Holy Cross has raised the bar in terms of team fitness and if the opposition wants to have any kind of a shot, it will have to match the red and gold in that area, let alone trying to match the Crusaders' scoring depth. The Crusaders should finish first and anything less than a repeat as champs will be a surprise.

ST. LAWRENCE LABATT LAURENTIANS

Coach: Junior Edwards

2009 record: 10-3-5 (2nd)

Who's back: Just about everybody, including Rudy Norman, Clinton Edwards, Ryan Slaney, Marc Pittman.

Who's gone: Darren Pike, Tristan Slaney

Newcomers: Shannon Brushett and former Laurentians stars Mike Howlett and Richard Kelly are back in fold. Canada Games players John Grant, Sean Edwards and Boyd Roul will be around for the entire season and the team has also added David Stewart from Marystown.

Quote: "Holy Cross is a good team and you can't say they won it just on fitness. We were not fit last year. We had some players who were fit, but we weren't fit as a team." - Junior Edwards

Note: Coach Junior Edwards says the Laurentians are looking forward to meeting Mount Pearl on the big synthetic turf field at Gushue Recreation Complex this season.

Prediction: There's no guarantee the Laurentians will be back in the final, but you can expect them to be fit as a fiddle this time around because the days when all they had to do was show up to get a win are over. St. Lawrence will be extra hungry as host team on championship weekend. Look for the Laurentians to edge Mount Pearl for second place.

MOUNT PEARL THAT PRO LOOK MOLSON

Coach: Walt Mavin

2009 record: 8-5-5 (3rd)

Who's back: Ryan Caines, Mark Reddy, Justin Pickford, Andrew Murphy, Shane Antle, Matthew Peddle, Gord Ryan, Tyler Putt

Who's gone: Curtis Walsh, Peter Seifert, Trevor Ivany, Sandy Lake.

Newcomers: Max Belanger, Matthew Hamlyn, Taedy O'Rourke.

Quote: "We've strengthened our backfield and midfield a little more and I think we can get back to the final." - team captain Mark Reddy

Prediction: Mount Pearl finished just six points behind St. Lawrence last season.

FEILDIANS ERNST AND YOUNG ORENDA

Coach: John Acreman

2009 record: 1-12-5 (5th)

Who's back: John Acreman, Ryan Sheppard, Colin Browne, Michael Bartellas, David Web, Zack Hynes, Colin Power.

Newcomers: Keegan Ezekiel, Chad Seymour, Tyler Winsor, Richard Hickey.

Quote: "Holy Cross won last year and to get to the top spot, you have to beat the top team. Forget about last year. We've got a different look this season. John (Acreman) brings a different perspective. The guys have a lot of respect for him." - Assistant coach Phil Oliver

Prediction: The Double Blues have slipped a notch or two from the team that made it to the 2008 final, losing 1-0 to St. Lawrence. Feildians gave up a league-high 48 goals last season and scored only 24, lowest among the four teams that played the 18-game schedule. There is, however, lots of optimism on the team this season as the Double Blues move in a youth-movement direction. They won't win the Cup this season, but they appear to be on the sort of rebuilding path that saw Holy Cross eventually turn it around.

WESTERN FC RUGGED EDGE

Coach: Garland Oram

2009 record: 1-5-4 (4th)

Roster: Colin Lynch, Kevin Oram, Greg Keats, Kevin LaSaga, Dennis Bellows, Patrick Fewer, David Oram, Justin King, Mark Ignor, Mark Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Swartz, Nick Park, Stephen Hobbs, Pat Christopher, Brandon Ezekiel, Brien Pattenden, Lyle Griffin, Matthew Alexander, Matthew Quigley, Scott Doody, Gavin Goudie, Adam Park, Jeff Lowe, Adrian Mulder, Robbie Critch. Two more players will be added to final roster.

Prediction: Last year's solid playoff effort should give the team some confidence, but the team doesn't have much depth and this will hurt them over the full regular schedule and I expect they'll fall below Feildians. Still, they put one heck of a scare into Mount Pearl last season before bowing out of the playoffs on penalty kicks. You can't take them for granted if they make the playoffs.

CONCEPTION BAY AUTO STRIKERS FC

Coach: Gary Forsyth

2009 record: N/A

Roster: Chris Hayes, Chris Sherman, Ryan Warner, Steve Hearn, Steve White, Craig Seymour, Mike Hamlyn, Matt Foote, Chris Mallard, Peter Seifert, Justin Smith, Jordan Wells, Adam Corbin, Brian Carroll, Mike Prowse, Josh Manuel, Todd Decker, Trevor Ivany, Tim Hamshere, Ben Davis, Steve Powell, Tim Greeley, Brandon Tilley

Quote: "I expect us to be organized, disciplined and competitive. I know that we will be in for a tough season. Regardless, our goal is to play on Centennial Field in St. Lawrence on the final weekend." - Gary Forsyth

Prediction: The expansion Strikers will be lucky to win a game this season.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

2009 Award Winners

First place (Bobby Breen Memorial Trophy) - Holy Cross/The Dock

Rookie of the Year (Ed Moyst Award) - Aaron Anstey (Holy Cross)

Top Defender (Jeff Babstock Award) - Clinton Edwards (St. Lawrence)

Most Sportsmanlike Player (Jim Goff Award) - Ryan Caines (Mount Pearl)

Golden Boot top scorer (Wils Molloy Award) - Zack Wade (Holy Cross)

Coach of the Year (Phonse Warren Memorial Award) - Jake Stanford (Holy Cross)

MVP regular season (Dick Power Memorial Award) - Zack Wade (Holy Cross)

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2009 Molson Challenge Cup All -stars

Forwards (strikers): Corey Moore (Holy Cross), Justin Pickford (Mount Pearl)

Midfielders: Rudy Norman (St. Lawrence), Zack Wade (Holy Cross), Shane Antle (Mount Pearl), Paul Slaney (St. Lawrence)

Fullbacks: Andrew Murphy (Mount Pearl), Jon Kelly (Mount Pearl), Clinton Edwards (St. Lawrence), Kevin Oram (Western United)

Goalie: Scott Edwards (Holy Cross)

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Provincial Challenge Cup senior soccer champions:

1967 - St. Lawrence

1968 - St. Lawrence

1969 - Feildians

1970 - Grand Bank

1971 - St. Lawrence

1972 - St. Lawrence

1973 - Holy Cross

1974 - Holy Cross

1975 - Grand Bank

1976 - St. Lawrence

1977 - St. Lawrence

1978 - St. Lawrence

1979 - Holy Cross

1980 - St. Lawrence

1981 - Holy Cross

1982 - St. Lawrence

1983 - Holy Cross

1984 - Holy Cross

1985 - Holy Cross

1986 - Holy Cross

1987 - Lawn

1988 - Holy Cross *

1989 - Holy Cross

1990 - Burin

1991 - Burin

1992 - Holy Cross

1993 - St. Lawrence

1994 - Holy Cross

1995 - St. Lawrence

1996 - St. Lawrence

1997 - St. Lawrence

1998 - St. Lawrence

1999 - St. Lawrence

2000 - St. Lawrence

2001 - St. Lawrence

2002 - St. Lawrence

2003 - Mount Pearl

2004 - Marystown

2005 - St. Lawrence

2006 - St. Lawrence

2007 - St. Lawrence

2008 - St. Lawrence

2009 - Holy Cross

* Won gold medal at national Challenge Cup

First place (Bobby Breen Memorial Trophy) - Holy Cross/The Dock

Rookie of the Year (Ed Moyst Award) - Aaron Anstey (Holy Cross)

Top Defender (Jeff Babstock Award) - Clinton Edwards (St. Lawrence)

Most Sportsmanlike Player (Jim Goff Award) - Ryan Caines (Mount Pearl)

Golden Boot top scorer (Wils Molloy Award) - Zack Wade (Holy Cross)

Coach of the Year (Phonse Warren Memorial Award) - Jake Stanford (Holy Cross)

MVP regular season (Dick Power Memorial Award) - Zack Wade

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Molson Challenge Cup All -stars

Forwards (strikers): Corey Moore (Holy Cross), Justin Pickford (Mount Pearl)

Midfielders: Rudy Norman (St. Lawrence), Zack Wade (Holy Cross), Shane Antle (Mount Pearl), Paul Slaney (St. Lawrence)

Fullbacks: Andrew Murphy (Mount Pearl), Jon Kelly (Mount Pearl), Clinton Edwards (St. Lawrence), Kevin Oram (Western United)

Goalie: Scott Edwards (Holy Cross)

Organizations: Molson, Orenda, Kirby Group Wellington Street Complex Ernst and Young Canada Games LABATT

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Corner Brook, Laurentians St. John's Conception Bay King George V Park Marystown Sandy Lake Grand Bank

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  • Realist
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    St. Lawrence will be back on top this season, their strength is their rock solid defence. The problem last year was their scoring ability, and if Rudy hadn't of gotten a red card in the final game St. Lawrence would be defeating champs right now. With Mike Howlett and Richard Kelly back on board along with Rudy Norman their scoring ability is just as good or better than Holy Cross, add that to the best defence in the province puts St. Lawrence well over the top.

  • Realist
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    St. Lawrence will be back on top this season, their strength is their rock solid defence. The problem last year was their scoring ability, and if Rudy hadn't of gotten a red card in the final game St. Lawrence would be defeating champs right now. With Mike Howlett and Richard Kelly back on board along with Rudy Norman their scoring ability is just as good or better than Holy Cross, add that to the best defence in the province puts St. Lawrence well over the top.