Canada’s men’s field hockey team is off to a perfect 2-and-0 start at the 2015 Pan American Games after a 1-0 win over Chile Thursday at the Pan Am Fields in Toronto.
A second half dragflick from captain Scott Tupper – his second goal on the penalty corner in the tournament – was the difference in the match and puts Canada in the driver’s seat to finish finish in Pool B.
“We identified Chile as probably our biggest game of the pool,” says Tupper. “Most people would have thought we were both going to be playing for first in the pool. It was always going to be a tense game.”
Heading into the match, the two teams were very familiar with each other after having met for a short series earlier this year in Chile, in which both teams experienced success.
The familiarity meant no surprises for either team and the play in the first half showed as much.
Neither team was able to break through the other’s defense, save for a chance on either end.
Gabriel Ho-Garcia found himself with a little space in the Chilean circle and fired a backhand on goal from a sharp angle but was turned away by keeper Adrian Henriquez.
Chile got a good chance of their own when a ball into the Canadian circle was deflect in close, but a quick reaction from keeper David Carter kept it out.
Tupper had a chance to give Canada the lead when his team was awarded its first penalty corner of the match, but the exchanged wasn’t clean and the Canadians weren’t able to manage a shot.
After a scoreless first half, the Canadians came out with renewed purpose in the second and controlled the majority of possession.
Mark Pearson had a close call in the third quarter when a cross-goal pass from Matthew Sarmento just missed connection.
Late in the match, Canada had the ball in the Chilean and Sukhi Panesar was able to earn a penalty corner in the fifty-fourth minute. It was Canada’s second of the match and unlike the first, Tupper was able to release his vaunted dragflick to the top right corner beat Henriquez and giving Canada the lead late.
“I was flicking the ball pretty good in training leading up,” says Tupper about his success on the corner so far this tournament. “Pulls are good, stops are good, it’s easy for me to come in with lots of confidence and hopefully put a lot of pace on the ball.”
Tupper goal was all the Canadians would need for the victory as they kept possession for the remainder of the game, securing their second win in as many matches at the Pan Am Games.
Canada will face Mexico, ranked thirty-fourth in the world, on Saturday (4pm PT/7pm ET) in its both teams’ final preliminary round match. The tournament quarterinal will take place on Tuesday, June 21st.