PHOTO: Canada’s Scott Tupper scores during a Men’s Preliminary Pool B match between Canada and Ireland on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympics at the Olympic Hockey Centre on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo by Yan Huckendubler)
In what could be considered as a must win game for both teams, Canada and Ireland played a hard fought match Thursday at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, with Ireland coming out on top by a score of 4-2.
Book-end goals in the first half propelled the Irish past the Canadians, who valiantly attempted a comeback in the second half.
“We battled really hard in the second half and (had) a really good team performance,” says forward Matthew Sarmento. “But we couldn’t make up for the goals we allowed in the first half.”
Canadian captain Scott Tupper scored twice in the final two frames to bring Canada within striking distance, but a late goal from Ireland’s Michael Darling put the game out of reach.
The loss means Canada cannot advance to the quarterfinal round even if it wins its final preliminary round game against India on Friday (8:30am PT/11:30am ET, Sportsnet, olympics.cbc.ca).
“We knew coming into the tournament we had three tough games off the start and we wanted to try and steal points from any of those three,” says forward Matthew Sarmento. “We didn’t. So we knew that these last two games were do-or-die for us.”
The 12th ranked Irish got on the board early as a penalty corner was given in the first minute. Shane O’Donoghue converted a drag flick in the first minute to put the Green Machine up by a goal.
But Canada was not easily deterred.
The Canadian men pushed back immediately, knowing the importance of getting a positive result, but despite the effort were not able to generate many chances in the first quarter.
After Canadian goalkeeper David Carter made a save early in the second period, Canada nearly broke through.
Strong work from the Ontario connection of Devohn Noronha Teixeira and Keegan Pereira resulted in Canada being awarded its first penalty corner of the game.
After two failed attempts from the stick of Gordon Johnston, Canada was given a third consecutive corner on which a variation sent the ball to Scott Tupper who pushed the ball just high and wide and Canada still trailed 1-0.
The Irish men, knowing they had escaped danger, went back the other way and tested David Carter again. But the Canadian keeper turned away a backhand by O’Donoghue.
But with only moments remaining in the half, Canada found itself a man short on a green card and Ireland took advantage by picking up another corner which O’Donoghue converted to give them the 2-0 lead in the 28th minute.
And then, only a minute later Peter Caruth snuck behind the Canadian defence and potted a third goal before the half.
Knowing the implications of a loss, Canada came out strong in the second half and led by Mark Pearson through the midfield was able to get on the board in the 36th minute.
Pearson ran a ball into the Irish end, moved it quickly to Matthew Guest, who found Iain Smythe on the baseline. Smythe quick found an open Tupper at the top of the Ireland circle and the Canadian captain hammered hope a piercing smash past keeper David Harte for Canada’s first goal.
The goal from the Canadian leader sparked the boys in black and after two chances generated by Matthew Guest, Canada picked up a corner in the 50th minute. Tupper stepped up and put a perfectly placed flick past Harte to bring Canada within one.
With ten minutes to go, Canada had hope.
In the 55th minute, defender Ben Martin pushed forward and dribbled the ball into the Irish circle before finding Mark Pearson in the goal mouth. Pearson quickly put a shot on goal, but he was stopped by Harte and Ireland’s Eugene Magee cleared the ball away from danger.
The stop was a turning point, as in the 57th minute, Ireland took advantage of a Canadian turnover in its own circle when Darling put the ball behind Carter for the 4-2 lead.
With its chances of advancing to the quarterfinals behind them, Canada now will have to regroup and refocus for its final match of 2016 Olympic Games against 5th ranked India on Friday (8:30am PT/11:30am ET, Sportsnet, olympics.cbc.ca).
For Canada’s full schedule and results visit the Rio 2016 hockey site here.
Click here for competition photos of Canada’s Olympic hockey team at the 2016 Games