No second chances
Laurentians will need three straight wins to capture soccer crown
A third-place finish wasn’t what the St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians were hoping for from the Molson Challenge Cup provincial men’s soccer regular season, but they’ll take it.
The team wasn’t good enough at times, according to head coach Derek Strang.
“The last month could have been a little better,” he told The Southern Gazette Wednesday. “I think we lost too many points, but that’s certainly our fault.”
Actually, the Laurentians lost only once in August – 1-0 to Feildians on Aug. 14 in St. John’s – but it was a game in which three points would have helped secure second place and a chance to avoid a three-match final weekend during this weekend’s playoffs in St. Lawrence.
The Laurentians tied Holy Cross twice during the month and posted a win against C.B.S. The team won its final two games of the season at home Aug. 20-21 against Corner Brook.
St. Lawrence finished with 43 points on the year, two less than Mount Pearl, who solidified the matchups for the opening round of the playoffs with a 1-0 win over the Crusaders Aug. 20. Holy Cross took the top spot with 52 points while Feildians were fourth with 39.
St. Lawrence will need a win against Feildians Friday and another victory Saturday over the loser of the game between Holy Cross and Mount Pearl to secure a berth in the Sunday final.
“It was a tight season,” Strang said. “It was a good season for the fans for sure. It’s been a long time since it’s been that tight. I think everybody’s expecting the same come the final weekend.”
The two finalists for the provincial championship advance to October’s nationals in St. John’s.
St. Lawrence posted two wins, a loss and a tie in four games against Feildians during the regular season. Strang is expecting an even game between the two next week.
“I think it’s going to be a competitive game. The boys are looking forward to taking the field on their own turf. We feel good about it, but I’m sure Feildians feel the same,” he said.
“They’re definitely a tough team. It’s been close games all year. We’re hoping for the best and we’re preparing for the best. We’re preparing to do well on Friday night, to be honest. We’re not looking to Saturday yet. We’re not looking to Sunday. We’re looking one game at a time.”
The Laurentians trained from Thursday through Monday in St. John’s, Strang said. They’ll convene again tomorrow for a couple of lighter practices in St. Lawrence.
The Laurentians have needed a pair of playoff wins in each of the last two seasons to make it to the final. They’ve run out of gas in the third game on each occasion, however, both 2-0 losses against Holy Cross.
Strang said the team is deeper, fitter and in a better position if they can make it that far this time.
He also feels playing at home will be an advantage for the Laurentians. St. Lawrence was undefeated at Centennial Field during the regular season. The team’s most recent provincial title in 2013 was also the last time the final weekend was held in the Burin Peninsula town.
“When you’re standing in that dressing room and waiting to get out over that line, I think it’s an extra-special feeling for some of the boys, and knowing that the community is behind them, we’re hoping that will give us something different,” Strang said.
Feildians goalkeeper Mike Delong dives to make a save during a Molson Challenge Cup provincial men’s soccer game against St. Lawrence at Centennial Field on July 16. The two teams meet again in St. Lawrence Friday for the playoffs. The Laurentians won the regular season matchup with two wins, a loss and a tie.