St. Lawrence opens its schedule at Canadian senior men’s championship on Thursday in Halifax
It’s been five years since the St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians represented Newfoundland and Labrador in the national Challenge Cup soccer championship tournament and coach Blair Aylward admits rust might be a problem early on for his club.
St. Lawrence opens against Dunbrak (Nova Scotia No.2) Thursday before taking on defending champion Quebec Friday in Halifax,.
Dunbrak has many good players including Derek Gaudent who has played at the national team level with Toronto FC,” noted Aylward.
Aylward says Quebec will be tough. “They have many great players.”
Playoff games are scheduled for Sunday with the medal games scheduled for Monday.
Holy Cross Kirby Group finished eighth overall at last year’s nationals in Winnipeg, Man.
The Laurentians, who finished with a second-place record of 15-5-7 in the Molson Challenge Cup League this summer, went on to defeat Feildians Ernst & Young 2-0 in the provincial final on their home turf in early September.
“The biggest factor is always how fast the team can adjust to the increased level of quality competition,” said Aylward.
“Especially,” he added “when you have a lot of new players who haven’t played at the national level and many veterans who haven’t played at the nationals in five years.”
But, he pointed out, “Our veteran core has immense national experience” and he expects them to settle everyone else down.
Lack of quality games and a full training squad is a problem for the Laurentians whose players are divided between the Burin Peninsula and St. John’s.
The team had two exhibition games, against St. John’s under-18s and the Memorial Sea-Hawks in preparation for the nationals.
“We’ve had numerous practices, but we haven’t been able to have the full team together,” noted Aylward.
One advantage Aylward believes his team has is that, even as the visitors, is that he doesn’t expect any team to have more support than the Laurentians this week.
“We will outnumber every team in regards to fan support, even against Nova Scotia,” said Aylward.
The Laurentians have won five national medals, including three silver and two bronze, the last in 2007.
Laurentians starters for the first game, according to Aylward, include ’keeper John Douglas, Marc Pittman, Clinton Edwards, Alan Dalton, Jonathan Grant, Sean Edwards, Sean Drew, Jordi Slaney and Stefan Slaney.
The other two starters will be decided Thursday, said the coach, who noted there were players with some “slight injury concerns,” including veteran Rudy Norman. Andrew Perrott is definitely not playing because of injury,
Others on the St. Lawrence roster are Patrick Slaney, Kurt Warren, Paul Slaney, Richard Kelly, Colin Power, Darren Pike, Jordan Caines, Corey Mullett, Mike Gregory, Adam Kelly and Brent Kelly.
Aylward’s assistant coaches are Derek Strang and Dr. Paul Slaney.