Canada, the tenth ranked team in the world; vs Italy, the 32nd ranked team at the world: The winner, an automatic berth in the next leg of Olympic qualification. It didn’t take long for Canada to assert their dominance and show their experience, carrying most of the possession and earning the first PC of the game. Late in the first half, Italy pushed back with a flurry of chances of their own, earning a pair of penalty corners. David Carter made two stellar saves on the first PC effort, but Italy capitalized on the second one, breaking the deadlock and taking a 1-0 lead into the second half.
Canada answered back in the third quarter as Gordon Johnston entered the circle and played the ball on net. Sukhi Panesar was in the right place at the right time to bang the ball into the open net off a deflection his way, tying the game at one goal apiece. Canada pressed for more at the end of the third quarter, earning four penalty corner chances and finally Johnston rifled a rocket past the Italian keeper to give Canada their first lead of the game.
Being one quarter away from a spot in the finals and an automatic place in the final leg of Olympic qualification, Canada continued to apply the pressure. They were forced to play a man down with Johnston out with a green card, but they weathered the storm and pressed back. Playing smart defensively and taking calculated attacking opportunities, Canada kept the ball largely in the Italian zone in the final 10 minutes of the game. Canada limited Italy’s final push and denied the chance for any late-game drama. Oliver Scholfield added a late marker for Canada to clinch the game and the berth in the tournament final.
Man of the match and Canadian captain, Scott Tupper said he is proud of how the team kept their composure despite being down a goal heading into the second half.
“We were playing pretty well and dictating the game,” he said. “It was nice to see us remain calm and know we had a lot of game left. We just needed to execute a bit better in the offensive end and keep our heads.” Tupper added that the team is excited to be in the championship match tomorrow no matter who the opponent is. “We just have to make sure we do our recovery well and prepare ourselves. Should be a lot of fun to play a final in this stadium.”
With the win, Canada will face Malaysia tomorrow night in prime time in the championship match of the 2019 FIH Hockey Series Finals Malaysia. A game against Malaysia in the capital: expect the atmosphere to be electric and the stands to be full.