The Hockey Series Final is the second stage in the FIH Olympic Qualification process. Canada’s Women’s National Team has been placed in a tournament taking place in Valencia, Spain on June 19-27, 2019. It will be an eight-team competition featuring Canada, Belarus, Spain, Italy, Namibia, South Africa, Thailand and Wales. The top two teams from each Hockey Series Finals event will advance to the next stage featuring two qualification matches.
>>> WATCH MATCHES LIVE <<<
|Canada vs Spain||1-1 DRAW||June 19, 2019||7pm|
|Canada vs Namibia||17-0 WIN||June 21, 2019||5pm|
|Canada vs Belarus||3-0 WIN||June 22, 2019||7pm|
|Semifinals – Canada vs Italy||June 26, 2019||4:45pm|
|Hockey Series Finals – Championship Match||June 27, 2019||7pm|
FULL MATCH SCHEDULE: FIH Series Finals – Valencia
4pm Local Time –> 7am PDT –> 10am EDT
5pm Local Time –> 8am PDT –> 11am EDT
6pm Local Time –> 9am PDT –> Noon EDT
7pm Local Time –> 10am PDT –> 1pm EDT
Canada’s first test at the 2019 FIH Series Finals was a big one: taking on the hosts, world number-7, Spain. It wasn’t the start Canada had hoped for as Spain showed their energy right off the push back by blasting a long ball into the circle, collected and finished nicely by Carola Salvatella. Canada responded well by controlling the ball and making scattered forays into the Spanish zone.
With five minutes remaining in the first quarter, Brie Stairs collected the ball outside the circle, dashed into the area and smashed a beautiful backhand shot past the Spanish keeper. With the goal, Stairs now has 90 international goals in her career. She is already the most prolific goal scorer in Canadian history and added to her total today.
“We got off to a bit of a slow start but I thought we responded really well,” said Stairs. “For me, it’s always nice to contribute, whether it’s earning a PC, scoring, getting an assist. Especially nice in a major competition against a good team like Spain.”
Canada came out firing in the second half, threatening with early chances but couldn’t break the deadlock. Spain attempted long passes attempting to breach Canada’s defense several times during the first and second half, but Canada defended well and largely kept the ball in the Spanish half. Canada dominated the possession in the third and fourth quarters, but the Spanish defense held strong. Despite a flurry of late chances from the Canadians, the game finished as a 1-1 tie.
“I thought we controlled and played really well in the second half, it’s too bad we couldn’t finish any of our chances in the second half,” Stairs said. “Even though we didn’t get the result we wanted, we still got a point and now it’s about getting prepared for our next game and keep working towards our goal.”
Canada was up against Namibia in game two of the tournament, where they had an opportunity to show what their offense is made of. The first goal was scored by Brie Stairs just two minutes into the game, as Canada went on a roll from there. Keeping their scoring mentality, Canada was able to take a commanding 6-0 lead before the first quarter was finished. Hannah Haughn was a star in the first quarter, scoring two late goals to further Canada’s stronghold against Namibia.
The second quarter was more of the same, with Canada capitalizing on their penalty corners early, with goals from Steph Norlander and the youngster, Elise Wong. This is Wong’s first goal in a major international tournament for team Canada, an amazing achievement for the young player.
Stairs scored three goals for Canada, raising her career goal record to 93. Canada was also able to capitalize on their penalty strokes throughout the game. Sara McManus scored an astounding four goals in this game, three of them coming from penalty strokes.
“I didn’t really expect it,” said McManus. “Normally there isn’t three strokes in a game, but I’m happy that I was able to put them away. We were really focused on making sure we stuck to our game-plan, and executed how we wanted to play.”
Canada finished the game with a 17-0 win, the highest score-line for any game in this tournament, as they try to build a big goal difference to give them a better chance at a first place group finish.
“We definitely have some history with them,” said McManus about Belarus. “We’re taking the confidence from the game today and bringing it into the game tomorrow.”
The important game three was a close one against Belarus, as Canada looked to finish the group stages with a big win. It was a physical match that showed strong tackles and risky plays, as Canada fought their way to victory.
Steph Norlander scored an important first quarter goal that put Canada in the driver’s seat throughout the game, although pressure continued to come from both sides of the pitch.
“It’s always nice to get on the board early,” said Norlander. “It takes a bit of the pressure off and frees us up to play a little bit. It was an important goal. I was happy to get on the score sheet, but it’s a team game, so a lot of hard work put in by everyone.”
The second and third quarters were hard fought on both sides, with Canadian goalie Kaitlyn Williams making a few huge saves to keep Canada with a fragile 1-0 lead. Belarus goalie Maryna Navitskaya had a great third and fourth quarter, keeping her team within reach of tying it up, but Canada kept on pushing. Natalie Sourisseau was able to control the right wing well, speeding up and slowing down the pace of the game at her leisure, while captain Kate Wright was able to pitch in with an important goal of her own. The fourth quarter is when Canada’s push began, as they controlled the ball on offense, and cruised their way to a 3-0 victory in Valencia.
Canada now gets ready for the knockout stages, and hope to carry this momentum into the more important games of the tournament. Although they are hoping for a bye into the semi-finals, Canada knows that they need to prepare for any scenario.
“Every game now is do-or-die,” said Norlander. “We know in the back of our minds that there is a little more pressure, so we need to have extra preparation and come into every game ready to go.”