Team Canada arrived home this week as they wrapped up their four-game test series against the Japanese National Team in Echizen Town, Japan. Canada finished the series with a 1-1-2 record against a tough Japan side.
Veteran players like Scott Tupper and Mark Pearson had great tournaments, with the latter leading the scoring for Canada with four goals.
“The series against Japan gave us a good opportunity to work on our style of play and cement our final processes in preparation for Pan Ams,” said Canadian Head Coach Paul Bundy. “The series went to the last the game, which was really beneficial for us as we know Pan Ams is traditionally a tense tournament because of tremendous opportunity of qualifying directly for the Olympic games on the line.”
This Japan series was an opportunity for Team Canada to iron out the team’s offense and defense, and spot any holes in their game. Although the team played well, there are some improvements that need to be made going into the Pan American Games.
“The Japan series gave us a good opportunity to focus on ourselves and identify gaps, but more importantly it gave us the opportunity to focus on how we collectively play smarter together,” said Bundy. “No team comes into a tournament with nothing to improve on, this goes the same for us as we enter these Pan Ams.”
Scott Tupper, Canada’s long serving Captain, hit the 300 cap mark during the final game in Japan. This was a monumental moment for the 32-year-old, who becomes only the fourth player in Canadian hockey history to crack the 300 threshold, behind Paul Chohan, Rob Short, and Ken Pereira on the all-time Caps leaderboard.
“It’s been really great, and I’m just proud to have been able to be a part of this team for so long,” said Tupper. “I truly love playing for Canada and consider myself lucky every time I get to line up with the guys. I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever make it to 300, but it’s been a fantastic ride and I’m hoping I’ve got enough gas in the tank to push on for another couple years or so. Mostly, I’m just lucky the boys haven’t gotten too sick of having me around!”
Having a player like Tupper is important for any team. As a future Field Hockey Canada Hall-of-Famer, Tupper brings a level of experience, knowledge, and consistency that teams look for in their captain.
“Scott has been a pillar in our team over the years,” said Bundy. “It is an amazing achievement to play for your country and to do it 300 times. It speaks to Scott’s talent, drive and character. We are very lucky to have Scott as the captain – he is very well respected in both the international and domestic communities as a player and a leader for Canada.”
Canada is looking to take their momentum from their performance in Japan, along with a first place finish at the FIH Series Finals, to bring in more international success at a larger international event, the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
“I think we’re in a good spot moving in to Lima,” said Tupper. “We’ve had a couple tournaments earlier this year where we did pretty well, some quality training periods at home, and a good trip to Japan to iron everything out. We’ll take a few days’ rest now, but I’m confident that after a couple more weeks of work at home, we’ll be in a good position to have a strong tournament and contend for the top of the podium.”
The next few weeks for Team Canada will consist of hard training and fitness sessions to finalize their preparations for Peru. They look to build as a unit, and hang on to their momentum going into the Pam-Am games.
Team Canada wraps up their 2019 test series in Japan. Photos/Kelly Vanry