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2007 Eastlink Men's Premiership News

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"Senior men’s soccer league expands

EastLink Premiership grows to 10 with addition of New Glasgow, Cape Breton, Fredericton, Charlottetown

By CHAD LUCAS Sports Reporter

The men’s EastLink Premiership is growing – and stretching its borders.

The Nova Scotia Soccer League senior circuit will expand to 10 teams when its 25th season kicks off during the May long weekend, with new squads in New Glasgow, Cape Breton, Fredericton and Charlottetown.

League coaches and administrators are excited about what the growth means for the future of the league.

"It’s a move in the right direction for sure," said Adam Hingley, coach of Dartmouth United. "It’s going to mean more competition for the players. It truly is a provincial league now, with New Glasgow and Cape Breton, and I like the idea of playing P.E.I. and Fredericton as well."

Teams will play each other twice in an 18-game schedule, up from 15 games last year.

League administrator Bob Tobin said the teams are still working out scheduling details, the trickiest part of the expansion. But he’s pleased that a three-year attempt to grow the league is coming to fruition.

"This year it all came together," Tobin said after a league meeting on Saturday. "We’re going to have more quality teams playing more often under this new format."

UNB head coach Miles Pinsent will helm the Fredericton squad, and he said he expects the team to include many former and current Varsity Reds.

"We’ve got a number of good, young players and I think it will be good for their development," Pinsent said. "The soccer community in Fredericton is very excited about the opportunity. I think it’s a step in the right direction for the sport in the province of New Brunswick as well. I know there are a number of good teams in the league and I’m sure it will prove to be a really good summer of soccer."

The Fredericton and Charlottetown teams won’t be eligible for the provincial playoffs but they’ll challenge for the EastLink Cup, awarded to the regular-season champion.

Tobin said the soccer circuit is also taking more of a community focus this year, playing up the connection between the senior teams and their affiliated youth programs.

Teams will have established home fields this year, with Scotia playing out of Weir Field, Dartmouth at the new Burnside Turf, Halifax City at Saint Mary’s, and Dunbrack and HCU Athens playing home dates on the Mainland North Common. Valley will play in Kentville.

The Cape Breton squad will be based in Sydney but play its home games on the turf in New Waterford.

Youth games will precede the senior contests whenever possible, Tobin said, and club players will have free admission into the senior games.

"We see that as a way to link the programs and bring the youth clubs in," he said. "We tend to think we’re going to turn the corner this year as far as attracting crowds. We have a great opportunity in front of us."

( clucas@herald.ca)"

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The teams will have established home fields this year-

<s>Scotia - Will be playing out of Weir Field.</s> Team has folded.

Dartmouth United - Will be playing out of the new Burnside Field.

Halifax City - Will be playing out of Huskies Stadium @ SMU

Halifax Dunbrack & HCU Athens - Will be playing out of the Mainland North Common.

Valley Kings Arms - Will be playing out of Kentville.

Cape Breton - Will be based in Sydney, but play in New Waterford.

Highland Knights, Charlottetown, & Fredericton will be announcing their home fields soon.

The Charlottetown team is the VU Breakers who played in the Challenge Cup last year.

UNB head coach Miles Pinsent will coach the Fredericton team.

The season will begin May 19, and the teams will have an 16 game schedule home and away.

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quote:Originally posted by Impact supporter


One question : In your opinion, would it be a viable idea to turn the EastLink Premier League into the CSL Eastern Conference or CSL Atlantic Conference. (i.e. bring it into the CSL fold)

Looking forward to your reply.

I don't know if it would be viable. There's not much money down here. Tickets for the NSSL are usually between $1 and $5 each. An NSSL senior game in Halifax can draw anywhere from 50-1200 fans. It's unpredictible. I don't know what kind of support the other teams get.

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My prediction for the league:

1. Dunbrack - tons of depth, veterns, young guys

2. Celtic/Athens

Too hard to call.

Celtic lost Simon Richardson and league MVP Colin Duffy, they have tons of defenders but not many skilled offensive players anymore.

Athens has Mesut back but lost tons of players from last year. Not sure if they have any decent forwards now.

It will be interesting to see how seriously PEI and Fredericton are about the soccer on road trips, because im sure the Halifax teams will be so drunk they wont even be able to see straight on Sunday roadtrip games from the night before.

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quote:Originally posted by Soccerpro

My prediction for the league:

1. Dunbrack - tons of depth, veterns, young guys

2. Celtic/Athens

Too hard to call.

Celtic lost Simon Richardson and league MVP Colin Duffy, they have tons of defenders but not many skilled offensive players anymore.

Athens has Mesut back but lost tons of players from last year. Not sure if they have any decent forwards now.

It will be interesting to see how seriously PEI and Fredericton are about the soccer on road trips, because im sure the Halifax teams will be so drunk they wont even be able to see straight on Sunday roadtrip games from the night before.

I'm pretty sure that VU & Fredericton will be very serious.

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From- http://www.herald.ns.ca/Sports/835895.html

"Major soccer exodus

Dunbrack gains majority of players from disbanded defending champion Scotia

By GLENN MacDONALD Sports Reporter

It was a major loss for the Nova Scotia Soccer League senior circuit when defending men’s champion Scotia folded in early April.

But the disbanding of Scotia proved to be a major gain for Halifax Dunbrack.

When word got out that M-I Swaco was dropping its major sponsorship with Scotia and the club was taking at least a year’s leave of absence, players from the reigning EastLink Premiership champions began looking elsewhere.

Some scattered to other teams but the majority — 11 to be exact — joined the Alan Jazic-coached Dunbrack.

"I know they didn’t want to come over but given the circumstances, they thought the best thing to do was to find a new place to play," Jazic said. "It’s unfortunate to see it come to this especially for them being defending champs. I’m just very happy they chose to come out with us."

Keeper Jeff Crane, the game-saver in last year’s league championship, and all-stars Eduardo Farias, Sean Fitzgerald, Jay Robinson and midfielder Dan Fournier are among those who made the exodus to Dunbrack.

They will provide stability and leadership to a talented, albeit young, corps which includes Derek Gaudet, Matt Fegan, Hamzeh Afani and Dennis Byrne.

"I would have had pretty big expectations even if we weren’t fortunate enough to get these players," Jazic said.

"We had a great solid base of young talent to start with. But what we needed was experience with a winning mentality and that’s what these players are going to bring to the team. It’s already evident in practice. It’s a very competitive environment right now."

The senior circuit’s 25th season opens on two fronts this weekend: Cape Breton United hosts Halifax Dunbrack on Saturday, while Valley Kings Arms visits Halifax City on Sunday afternoon at Huskies Stadium.

Here’s how the rest of the Nova Scotia teams shape up for the coming season:

Cape Breton United

It will be a baptism by fire for the Cape Breton squad, which returns after a one-year absence.

Not surprisingly, youth will be served with the team that will play its home games in New Waterford.

"We are young; our oldest player is 23," CBU coach Wendell MacGibbon said. "They are going to make mistakes and they will have to learn under fire but you have to start somewhere."

MacGibbon noted keeper Travis Durdle, a backup with St. Francis Xavier and defender Geoff MacLeod, a rookie with St. F.X., as players to watch.

Dartmouth United

Expect better things in Dartmouth this year because it was a struggle last season for the youthful DU squad

The team won only two of 15 games last season and finished 10 points out of the final playoff spot.

Halifax City

The 2005 champions have lost two key members in league MVP Colin Duffy, who moved to Alberta, and top scorer Simon Richardson, who returned to his native England.

But Halifax City has made up for those losses with the addition of midfielder Matt Houston — a former semi-pro player who grew up playing with current England international Owen Hargreaves and won a 1999 national senior title with Calgary — and strikers Dylan Sheehan and Kristin Kirincich.

They join an already potent lineup which includes veterans Jamie Sawler, Wayne Francis, Brian Francis, Ralph Levangie, Mark Sweetapple and Golden Boot winner Mat Budreski.

HCU Athens

A perennial powerhouse, Athens will be stronger despite the loss of Richard Eastell and the late return of Tariq Sheikh, who’s working in Spain.

Coach Stewart Galloway welcomes back former Saint Mary’s Huskies standout Mesut Mert, who had been playing pro with the Montreal Impact of the North American USL First Division, and Mike Hasiuk, who captained King of Donair to a national crown in 2001.

Idris Mert, Joel Grandy, Trevor Reddick, George Kyreakakos and Jorge Aguirre headline a talented squad. And Athens is strong in goal with league all-star Graham Little and 2005 AUS first-team all-star Matt Hogg.

Highland Knights

The New Glasgow-based club may be short on senior soccer experience but most of the Knights’ roster will be filled with players who have cut their teeth in the Atlantic university conference.

Former St. F.X. standout keeper Mark Schuegraf will provide stability in goal, while Saint Mary’s rookie striker Robert MacNevin, Mount Allison Mounties’ Brock Fraser and Brandon Dort of St. F.X. will be counted on for their offence.

Still, Highland coach Jonathan MacKenzie remains realistic.

"We’re going to be young and without the experience that a couple of the big teams in Halifax will have," MacKenzie said. "But I think we will be in the mix, somewhere in the middle of the pack."

Valley Kings Arms

The second-year squad is in search of a coach after John Short decided not to return. They may use a player/coach.

The loss of midfielder Nigel Fowler, who returned home to Ontario for the summer, and all-star Keith MacMillan, who moved over to Halifax City, will sting. Defender Cale Hennigar of St. F.X. and Acadia midfielder Daniel Sequeira will be heavily counted on.

And Valley has a talented striker in all-star Jono McLoughlin.

"He scores all the goals for us," team manager Rod McBeath said."

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From- http://www.herald.ns.ca/Sports/841006.html

"New senior soccer playoff format gets mixed reviews


The reward for finishing first in the regular season just got a whole lot bigger for Nova Scotia senior soccer teams.

The top team — in both the men’s and women’s leagues — will now receive a direct berth into the provincial final and wait while three other teams fight for the other final spot.

The third- and fourth-place finishers meet on Friday, Aug. 24, with the winner advancing to face the No. 2 team the next day in a semifinal match.

All games are set for Mainland North Common in Halifax.

The Nova Scotia Soccer League announced the change in an e-mail on Monday.

The old format saw a two-day tournament. No. 1 and No. 4 played in one semifinal while No. 2 and No. 3 met in the other.

"I think it’s a good idea," Jeff Aucoin, the head coach of the Dartmouth United women’s team, said of the new playoff schedule. "It certainly gives a huge advantage to the first- and second-place teams, especially the first-place team. We play a whole season of games and in my mind the team that finishes first or the team that finishes second deserves to have an advantage based on that."

Veteran Scotia women’s coach John Kehoe wasn’t as pleased.

He said the playoff schedule is asking too much of teams that finish third and fourth.

"To expect players to play three games in three days shows a real lack of awareness about the sport of soccer," he said. "If the winner of the quarter-final was to upset the semifinalist I would have to say your provincial showcase championship game would be a very poor game."

Kehoe said he was also disappointed in the timing. He said he was operating under the belief the playoffs would be conducted in the same way as last season.

"It came out today," he said. "If you’re going to implement a rule, you implement it at the beginning of the year, not one-third of the way through the season."

League administrator Bob Tobin said the new format stemmed from a meeting in November. He said the consensus from senior coaches in attendance was they wanted more of a benefit for placing first.

Soccer Nova Scotia had to approve changes to the provincial tournament and did so late last month prior to its annual general meeting.

"The request has been there for a while that first place really gets no benefit in finishing first and we should look at it," Tobin said. "So we did and this is the result."

Tobin said he then worked with SNS to outline the details of the schedule.

He said they considered a mid-week start but noted that it would be difficult for a team such as Cape Breton to come in for a quarter-final match and then have to return again on the weekend.

Tobin also said national tournaments often demand teams play a lot of games in a short number of days.

Coach Jack Hutchison of the Halifax City men’s side, said he likes the bigger rewards for placing first and second, but also had concerns about teams potentially playing three games in three days.

"Finishing first in the league now really means something, which I agree with," he said. "Looking at the other part, I was hoping it wouldn’t be a Friday, Saturday, Sunday. If you’re No. 3 or No. 4, you could get three games in three days. That’s a bit much.

"I was hoping for maybe a Wednesday, Friday, Sunday."

Hutchison and Kehoe didn’t like the comparison to the national tournament format.

"You don’t get one team more tired over another," Kehoe said of nationals. "When you get to the championship game at the nationals, everybody has played the four games to get there. In this case, you’re going to get a team playing a third game in three days and you’ve limited their ability to rest people because you are only going to give them five subs a game.""

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If you really want to place some importance on first place scrap the playoffs. The regular season is the true measure of a teams depth. Fans want to see a matchup between two well-trained well-rested teams. The guys who set this format up have no regard for the health of the players involved. If the third and fourth place teams manage to make the final some of the players could possible play 270 - 360 minutes if extra time is required. They make us all sign waivers before we play to reduce liability for SNS insurance providers and then the do this. And if you think this is something come watch the annual Master's Provincials when they can play 5 games in two days. Like most things it will take a major incident before change is made.

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Having the 1st place team win the league with no playoffs will never fly because theres only ever 2 - 3 teams in the league with a realistic chance to finish first, this year being Athens, Dunbrack and City, having a 4th place spot in the playoffs gives all the crap teams a realistic goal. I agree this set up is flawed, its like the old AUS university playoffs, teams without the bye may win 1 game, but not a chance in hell of winning 2 or 3, but at least theres a reward for coming 1st.

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Playoffs come from a hockey mentality and should be scrapped. If the team is not good enough in the regular season they don't deserve a second chance. And why is it they can't play the semi's on Wednesday or a week later given the Nationals don't take place until October. When somebody drops dead after playing three games in three days the sh*t will hit the fan.

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