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Sea-Hawks men’s squad facing uphill battle

Michael O’Brien (2) will captain the Memorial Sea-Hawks this season.
Michael O’Brien (2) will captain the Memorial Sea-Hawks this season. - Contributed

Graduation of key players, injuries hit Memorial team hard

It didn’t just rain and pour on Jake Stanford in the days and months leading up to the 2018 Atlantic University Sport soccer season.

Rather, the Memorial Sea-Hawks coach endured a hurricane.

If it wasn’t bad enough that Stanford lost a trio of key players to graduation, injuries and a couple of other factors have put the Sea-Hawks behind the eight-ball entering opening-weekend play today and Sunday against UPEI at King George V Park in St. John’s.

Memorial (5-6-1) scraped into the playoffs last season as the sixth seed, thanks in large part to all-star campaigns from Tyler Forsey and Alex Pretty.

Forsey finished second in AUS goalscoring with nine tallies in 12 games. The Sea-Hawks had 20 goals in total.

Both players, however, have their Memorial varsity eligibility used up, along with team captain and former conference all-star Jordi Slaney.

On top of that, Tyler Kirby, who was the second-leading scorer in Johnsons Challenge Cup provincial play this year with league champion Holy Cross, informed the Sea-Hawks he will be stepping away from varsity play this season.

Then Daniel Crewe, a starter on the Sea-Hawks last season, suffered a season-ending injury in Challenge Cup. Same for Jacob Grant, a highly-touted recruit who was to play his first year with MUN.

Yet another player Stanford recruited this year, Sean Ray of England, won’t take his first class at Memorial until January, 2019, and as a result will not play with the Sea-Hawks in 2018.

“And there are a few more role players who won’t be back with us,” Stanford said.

“It’s not a pretty picture. It’s been one hit right after another.”

It would be easy to fold the tent, but Stanford and the Sea-Hawks are hopeful of keeping a post-season streak alive that’s seen Memorial make the playoffs three of the past four years.

“We’re in a bit of a rebuild,” Stanford said, “so we need to rely on our leadership.

“We’re very good in the middle with Michael O’Brien, Owen McAlesse and Ian Gamba.”

O’Brien will captain the team this year.

Stanford likes the play of rookie defender Harry Carter, who will be making his Sea-Hawks debut.

Braeden Sheppard is back between the pipes. Canada Games graduate Sam Hawco will also get some playing time.

The Sea-Hawks and Panthers clash 3:15 p.m. today and Sunday at King George V.

robin.short@thetelegram.com

Sea-Hawks roster

Riley Bennett, Harry Carter, Ryan Farrell, Fomba Fambullah, Iain Gamba, David Goulding, Jack Haywood, Sam Hawco, Sean Henderson, Cam King, Owen McAlesse, Ranaldo Morris, Evan Myles, Chris Neil, Michael O’Brien, Thomas Osmond, Bruno Okoliachu, Gerard Power, Daniel Quinn, Braeden Sheppard, Ben Stone and Ethan Slaney.

Jake Stanford is the head coach, and his assistants are Carter Mackey and Thomas Pieroway.

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