PHOTO: Canada’s Keegan Pereira and Taylor Curran celebrate a goal vs the U.S. at World League Round 2 in Trinidad and Tobago on March 25, 2017 (Courtesy of Pan American Hockey Federation)
In its first game since the 2016 Olympics, Canada’s men’s field hockey team picked up a convincing 4-2 victory against the United States to open World League Round 2 Saturday in Trinidad and Tobago.
While the team hasn’t played a game together in more than six months, players have been in action in club hockey locally and across the world.
And despite the lengthy break, Canada’s men were dominant in their first World League match.
“It was good just to get back with the guys, have the whole team playing a game together after Rio,” says Keegan Pereira, who has been playing with HTC Uhlenhorst Mulheim in the German first division, and opened the scoring for Canada on Saturday.
Three of the four Canadian goals were scored by players who, during the break, have played overseas: Pereira, Gabriel H0-Garcia, and Scott Tupper. The fourth was scored by Gordon Johnston, who played his club hockey for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
David Carter, who played in the Malaysia Hockey League this winter, was in goal for the win.
“It’s definitely helpful,” Pereira says of the level of hockey he has been playing since the Olympics. “The competition we get there is probably a bit higher than the level of this competition. And that helps you slow down a game.”
After a feeling out process in the first five minutes, the Canadians – who are ranked 11th in the world – began to put pressure on the 29th ranked United States.
After a quick transition through the midfield which resulted in a circle entry, Canada was awarded a corner in the 10th minute. The first drag-flick attempt by Canadian captain Scott Tupper hit an American foot, resulting in a second penalty corner.
Tupper’s flick was stopped but the ball came to Pereira and he made a quick move over the stick of a U.S. player and hit the ball home to give Canada the 1-0 lead in the 10th minute.
Canada carried the 1-0 lead into the second quarter, when they continued to attack.
The transition game continued to be a strength in the second quarter, when Devon Noronha-Teixeira took off before earning a corner in the 19th minute.
The injection was mishandled, but quick thinking by the Canadians sent the ball back into the circle where Johnston found Gabriel Ho-Garcia, who played in the New Zealand Hockey League in late 2016, and he gave Canada the 2-0 lead.
Tupper, who has been playing with Schaerweijde in the Netherlands, added a third on a penalty stroke late in the third quarter, before Johnston scored a perfectly placed drag flick in the 55th minute.
The U.S. scored two second half goals, making the Canadians work for the win until the final buzzer, which is something they are prepared to do in the first few games of the tournament, knowing the pressure and intensity will escalate quickly.
“They are a pretty hard team, they fight. It’s a good starting test for us,” Pereira adds. “Just with the way the tournament is set up, we start off with these two hard games and then we go quarterfinal, semi and finals. We would assume those games get harder and we need to get better.”
Canada is back on the field Sunday at 12:30pm PT/3:30pm ET against Chile. The game can be watched live here.