PHOTO: Brienne Stairs carries the ball in Canada’ 4-3 loss to Belarus on April 6, 2017 at the Gryphon Hockey World League Round 2 in West Vancouver, BC (By Blair Shier)
Canada’s women’s field hockey team suffered a narrow 4-3 loss to Belarus in the 2017 Gryphon Hockey World League Round 2 quarterfinal Thursday in West Vancouver, British Columbia.
The loss means Canada’s women cannot move on to the World League Semi-Finals (Round 3) – which will be played later this year and where spots for the 2018 Women’s Hockey World Cup will be awarded – as only the top two finishers in West Vancouver will advance.
Canada still has a chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup later this year at the Pan American Cup (August 4-13 in Lancaster, PA) where the winner and continental champion is awarded a World Cup spot.
“This is a tough day really,” says Canadian head coach Ian Rutledge. “To be three-nil up and to lose 4-3 is never an easy day, and it’s never an easy day when it’s a lot to play for. And that loss puts us out unfortunately.
“But in full credit to our girls, I thought we played a pretty good game for the most of it, and Belarus just got the jump on us in the third quarter and picked back goals.”
Canada’s 3-0 lead at the half was well-earned. While Belarus proved to be a worthy opponent, the Canadians were the better of the two teams in the first half.
Stephanie Norlander opened the scoring in the 8th minute after youngster Jordyn Faiczak fed her on a cross-goal pass to give Canada the 1-0 lead.
Two minutes later, Brienne Stairs carried the ball through the midfield before dishing to Hannah Haughn in the circle, where she flipped the ball by Belarusian goalkeeper Maryna Navitskaya to extend Canada’s lead in the 10th minute.
“I’m really proud of the way that we came out in the first half,” Haughn says. “It was really exciting to come up and have a strong performance and put some balls in the net.
“Having my friends and family in the stands has been incredible, and scoring a goal in front of them is also a great feeling.”
In the 20th minute, Rachel Donohoe added her fourth goal in the last two games to put Canada up three goals at the half.
But Belarus made a game of it in the third quarter, and scored three times in an eight minute span – twice on penalty corners – to chip away at Canada’s lead and eventually tie the game.
“I think sometimes when that happens, you start to think of losing the lead rather than just maintaining control and getting back in the game,” Rutledge adds. “But in full credit to Belarus, I think they played a good game.”
Belarus went ahead on a penalty corner in the 51st minute, and despite a handful of chances throughout the final 9 minutes, which included multiple penalty corners, the Canadians could not equalize.
Canada will now face Trinidad and Tobago in a classification match on Saturday (12:00pm PT/3:00pm ET). The winner of that match moves on to play Mexico in the 5/6 match on Sunday (12:00pm PT/3:00pm ET).
“Our mentality is really gritty,” says Haughn. “So we’re going to look to come out hard in our last game(s) of World League 2, and make our fans proud and Canada proud.”