Photo: Yan Huckendubler
Ali Baggott, for PAHF
The Canadian Wolfpack ticked off the first box of their to-do list after they cruised past Cuba 10-0 in Pool A play. Veteran forward Brienne Stairs pocketed three goals in the win to bring her international scoring tally to 100, the highest of any Canadian.
The Canadians wasted no time getting on the board as Canadian scoring phenom Stairs tapped in the first goal on a goalmouth scramble in the second minute of play. After settling the play, a hard ball into Wolfpack forward Holly Stewart sent Cuba keeper Yurismailis Garcia out to challenge but a sliding challenge forced a penalty stroke.
Canadian defender Sara McManus delivered with fine form a low hard shot to double Canada’s lead. The goals continued from there as Canadian forward Stephanie Norlander buried another goalmouth scramble to give her side a 3-0 lead at the first break. Coach Giles Bonnet was happy with how his team started the game with a lot of energy.
“We played moments of good hockey today. Sometimes it can be tough to play well against a really defensive team. We brought enough pressure in this game,” Bonnet said.
In the second quarter a quick free hit from defender Karli Johansen set up Stairs for her second goal, this time smashing a back hand in to the bottom corner for a 4-0 lead. Canadian forward Hannah Haughn’s speed gave her an open look at goal and her back-hand attempt was redirected swiftly by Maddie Secco for Canada’s fifth goal. The Canadians delivered on their first penalty corner of the game as McManus’ sweep shot took a deflection off a defender’s stick and floated over Garcia for a 6-0 Canada lead and, ultimately, the half time score.
The pace started to drop in the third quarter as captain Sunaylis Nikle kept the Cuban backfield more organized and compact. Cuba Yuraima Vera’s skills on a fast break put Canadian defenders Johansen and Danielle Hennig on their heels but without support Vera was unable to generate any opportunities towards goal. Canada had five penalty corners that they could not deliver on and the scoreless quarter left Canada ahead still 6-0.
Canada advanced their lead in the fourth quarter as Haughn buried the seventh goal, while Stairs picked up her own rebound to complete the hat trick and an 8-0 Canada lead. Johansen stepped up to the plate on yet another penalty corner attempt. Her flick was well executed but saved on the line by Cuba defender Brizaida Ramos. Play continued and a ball came across the goal for Norlander to tap in to the empty net for a 9-0 Canada advantage. Canada’s Stewart cleverly batted in a rebound in mid-air following a blast from Secco to lift Canada in to double digits.
Canada finished with a 10-0 victory and join Argentina with one win each in Pool A. According to Bonnet, their second round battle with Argentina is the next step in a progression for the team. “It’s not just about Argentina. There’s three pool games, quarters, semis and finals,” he said. “For us, we want to build ourselves as we go forward in the tournament.”
The Leonas and Wolfpack will clash in their second pool play game on July 31 at 16:00 local time (-5 GMT).