Holy Cross determined to get back to Challenge Cup final
The Holy Cross Kirby Group Crusaders are not where they want to be yet, but their fast start is an indication where they might be headed.
The Crusaders, Molson Coors Challenge Cup senior men’s champions four out of the past five years, finished first last season, as usual, but they were upset by Feildians in the semifinals. That hurt.
Holy Cross goalkeeper Thomas Pieroway
Holy Cross desperately wants to be back in the 2014 final and look to be primed to make that happen.
The perennial powerhouse team is off to an impressive start this season with five wins and two draws in seven matches for 17 points, six more than second-place St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians who have played one more game.
Challenge Cup play continues this weekend with Holy Cross and Mount Pearl First Choice/Molson playing a home-and-home series.
Mount Pearl is coming off a double shutout loss to the Laurentians last week on the Burin Peninsula.
Mount Pearl plays the Crusaders six o’clock tonight at King George V Park. The teams meet again 1 p.m. Sunday at Smallwood Park in Mount Pearl.
“No, not too bad,” Holy Cross coach Jake Stanford answered with a chuckle when complemented about his team’s start to the 2014 campaign.
“We’re continuing to train hard and we’re not looking too far ahead,” added Stanford.
“We’re getting a lot of production from a lot of different players and I think that’s what’s really working for us so far. All in all, we’ve played pretty consistent since the start of the year.”
It’s early, of course, but Holy Cross currently has four of the top five players in the scoring race.
Goalkeeping which has always been a strength of Holy Cross sides looks to be in good hands again this season with rookie Thomas Pieroway.
Pieroway, who played for St. John’s, the province’s representative at the under-18 national championships last season, has posted three shutouts over the teams’ six provincial senior games.
“I’m very pleased with Thomas,” said Stanford. “For a young keeper, he’s done very well.”
After a promising start, Mount Pearl has dropped its last four games. The boys from the Pearl face a tough task to get back on the winning track against a Holy Cross team that has scored a league-leading 16 goals and allowed just six.
“They played us well the last time we played them. They were actually outplaying us for 20-25 minutes of the first half,” Stanford said of the Mount Pearl side.
Holy Cross went on to win that game 3-1.
“Mount Pearl is dangerous. They are more organized and they seem better prepared this season.”
“(Justin) Pickford up front is trouble when he’s on the pitch, so there are players we have to concern ourselves with.”
In the only other provincial senior men’s match this weekend, Feildians Ernst & Young will play the Laurentians 4 p.m. today at Centennial Field in St. Lawrence.
The defending Molson Coors Challenge Cup champion Laurentians started the season winless in six games but veteran Laurentian Rudy Norman maintains that was a bit deceiving.
The team rebounded with a pair of shuouts over Mount Pearl last weekend at Centennial Field.
Norman says there’s a lot of work for the team to do between now and Labour Day before adding, “We’ve got the right mix that could help us repeat.”
Norman said it was just a mater of time for his team to turn it around.
“We actually deserved better results from the first six games,” he said.
“We were playing good, but it seemed we couldn’t buy a goal and other teams scored on every chance they had.
“But I’m not going to lie,” he noted, “it was the first time in the 20 years I’ve been playing that we started this badly so there was some doubt.”
Still, he added, “from my past experience, I knew we’d turn it around.”