PHOTO: Canada’s Scott Tupper celebrates a goal vs India at the Rio 2016 Olympics Games on August, 12 2016 (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Canadian captain Scott Tupper scored twice from the penalty corner as Canada defeated Switzerland 2-1 in the World League 2 quarterfinal Thursday in Trinidad and Tobago.
With the win, Canada’s men advance to the tournament semifinal and face Russia on Saturday (2:45pm PT/5:45pm ET). Tupper will play in his 250th international game for Canada on Saturday, while Adam Froese will play in his 150th.
If Canada wins on Saturday, it will be guaranteed a top-two finish in Trinidad and Tobago and thus will advance to the World League Semi-Final (Round 3) to be played later this year and at which 2018 World Cup berths will be played for.
Entering Thursday’s match against Switzerland, Canada’s men had outscored their opponents 19-3 through the first three games of the competition. And despite their opponent being Switzerland – ranked 33rd and a relative unknown in the field hockey world – the quarterfinal was Canada’s closest game of the tournament.
“It was obviously a little bit difficult and at times frustrating because we weren’t able to punch through and score on some of the opportunities we had,” Tupper said after the game. “Ultimately to get the win in the quarterfinal is what’s important.
“I think we’ve matured a lot over the last maybe four years. I think there is a lot of confidence in the group and when going into that 3rd and 4th quarter there was no panic. We were calm and collected and there was a lot of discussion about what we need to do to get the win.”
The Canadians controlled the play for the majority of the match, and much like the final pool match against Trinidad and Tobago, the chances came early. But the Swiss were able to withstand much of the pressure thanks to good goaltending from Jonas Verest.
Matthew Sarmento earned Canada’s first penalty corner of the game in the 6th minute, but the Canadians could not convert.
Mark Pearson had Canada’s next best opportunity to score in the 11th minute when he was spotted at the penalty stroke spot by Keegan Pereira and let go of a backhand that was turned away by Verest.
Sarmento had his own backhand stopped in the 23rd minute and Pereira had a chance on the half-time buzzer, but was stopped as the game went into the break scoreless.
But Canada finally broke through in the second half.
After Balraj Panesar earned a corner with nice work on the back line, Tupper potted his first of the game on a flick, high to the left of the keeper in the 38th minute.
Switzerland quickly replied in transition in the 41st, when Nicholas Steffen was left alone in front of David Carter and put one by the Canadian keeper to tie the game.
Similarly to when Chile opened the scoring in the second half after being outplayed by Canada in the first half of their pool match, Canada was not fazed.
The Canadian men continued to press in the fourth quarter, and after Pearson had two close calls turned away, Sukhi and Balraj Panesar connected to pick up a corner for Canada in the 54th minute.
Tupper stepped up to the plate again and put another high, hard flick to the top shelf to give Canada the 2-1 lead and ultimately send Canada on to the semi.
Canada will be looking to move-on to World League 3 with a semifinal win and is confident in its ability, based on past experience.
“First off, it’s taking care of ourselves and doing all the recovery we need to do today and tonight. We’ll train a little bit and focus on some things we need to do to be successful.
“We’re a little bit more hardened in games like this, where there’s something on the line, compared to maybe a few years ago.”
Canada will face Russia on Saturday at 2:45pm PT/5:45pm ET.