Cox & Palmer P.E.I. F.C. begins play Wednesday at the nationals in Halifax
© Submitted Photo
P.E.I. F.C. opened the season by winning the McCain New Brunswick Premier Soccer League Maritime Champions League tournament. They are competing at nationals this week in Halifax. Team members, front row, from left, are Josh Vessey, Harmi Singh, Logan Dawson and Matt Thomson. Second row, Trevor White, Kyle Dutton, Dan McAleer, Sang Muk Choi, Kieran Dutton, Jake McKenna, Rob Aiken, Ibra Sanoh, Will Chandler, Dillon Wight and Jared Murphy.
Prince Edward Island's entry into the Canadian senior men's club soccer championship leaves today for Halifax.
It is the closest the tournament has been since P.E.I. won gold at home in 2010. The win came after a pair of bronze-medal performances, but it hasn't brought home a medal since. The team finished eighth in 2011 and fourth last year in Winnipeg.
"We should be in the hunt for a medal this time," said Cox & Palmer P.E.I. F.C. coach John Diamond. "We're good."
The team has a handful of players who have been attending nationals for a decade, some young players and a good core of players in between.
The team has six players on this year's UPEI Panthers squad. They include starting keeper Brett MacDonald and Cole MacMillan, who has an Atlantic University Sport-leading six goals in nine games, including four this past weekend in a pair of victories against Memorial.
Brett Hogan, Kieran Dutton, Harminder Singh and Dan Hill are also with the Panthers while Jared Murphy, Logan Dawson and Dillon White are sitting out this season.
"We're getting some players that are razor sharp and the other guys have been really working hard the past four or five weeks getting ready," Diamond said.
"We have a lot of guys with experience that have played at this level. It's not going to be a shock to them anymore."
The senior team compiled a 10-5-1 record to finish third in the McCain New Brunswick Premier Soccer League this season after winning the league in 2012. Many of the senior team players have been trying to get to as many UPEI practices as possible since their final regular season game was in the middle of August.
"We may be smaller than everybody else and have fewer registered players, but we know each other really well, so I don't feel that time off really impacts us too, too much," said centre midfielder Matt Thomson.
The tournament's 12 teams are divided into four groups of three. The top two teams advance to the playoffs with the third team playing in the consolation round.
P.E.I. F.C. opens Wednesday against Manitoba and plays British Columbia on Friday.
"The first game is essential," Thomson said. "We can really do ourselves a favour if we get three points."