PHOTO: Canada and Japan do battle in the World League 2 final on April 2, 2017 in Tacarigua, Trinidad and Tobago (Courtesy of PAHF)
Canada’s men’s field hockey team has advanced to the World League Semi-Finals (Round 3) after a top-two finish at World League Round 2 in Trinidad and Tobago.
In the final match of the tournament, with the tournament title on the line, the Canadian men dropped a 2-1 decision to Japan Sunday in Tacarigua.
Canada and Japan, the top two ranked teams in the tournament respectively, were clearly a cut above the rest of the competition throughout the course of the tournament, which made for an exciting and evenly played final match.
All the game’s goals were scored in the third quarter, with Canada’s Scott Tupper opening the scoring in the 31st minute on a penalty stroke, and the Japanese, who boasted the tournament’s top scorer, Kenta Tanaka, scoring two straight to secure the victory.
“They had us in the run of play the first half, and then I think we had the run of play in the second half,” says goalkeeper David Carter who started four out of the six Canadian matches at World League 2. “So overall it was pretty even, but it just came down to them finishing one more chances than we did.”
“The boys are extremely, extremely disappointed with the result because we really wanted to win the tournament.”
Tanaka ends the tournament with nine goals to his name, while the Canadian captain, Tupper, finished second in tournament scoring with seven of his own.
Japan may have had the edge of play in the first half, but Canada was up to the challenge thanks largely to Carter who made two strong saves on Japanese corners and had the help of the woodwork on another.
Canada also hit a post on a corner attempt of their own, on a drag flick from Tupper in the 12th minute.
Both teams also had chances to open the scoring in the dying moments of the first half, when Canada’s Mark Pearson found Adam Froese at the far post on the rush, but the ball just missed connected with Froese’s stick. Japan had a corner in the final minute, but could not convert.
“We felt that we played well enough to at least force a shootout and eventually win that game,” Carter adds. “With the way both teams played, it really could go either way and just went against us tonight.”
Tupper’s goal early in the second half gave Canada hope that it might just be them who finish atop World League 2. But Japan fought back with goals from Tanaka and the eventual winner from Takura Sasaki on a penalty corner in the 40th minute.
The Canadians had a chance to tie late on a penalty corner with next to no time on the clock, but their attempt was thwarted and so too were aspirations to be crowned World League 2 Champions.
And while the team moves on to the World League Semi-Finals (Round 3) later this year in one of two tournaments being played in London, England and Johannesburg, South Africa, it is little consolation in the moment for a Canadian team that had sights set on going undefeated in Trinidad and Tobago by finishing with a win.
“Today was all about winning the Championship. Just falling a bit short, especially having an opportunity so late in the game to tie it and hopefully pushing it to shootout, made it tougher to take.”