On a night when Field Hockey Canada inducted five members to its inaugural Hall of Fame class for their memorable careers, twenty-two year old forward Gabriel Ho-Garcia had a performance for to be remembered Saturday, scoring four goals and leading the Canadian men’s field hockey team to an 8-1 victory over Mexico at the Pan Am Fields in Toronto.
“It’s mainly when the team plays well,” says Ho-Garcia, who scored a hat-trick in Canada’ recent trip to Malaysia, about why his goals tend to come in bunches. “As you saw today, those were mainly all tap-ins. Team plays well, I get in the right positions and I get lucky.”
With the win Canada finishes in first place in Pool B and will face Pool A’s fourth place finisher, Trinidad and Tobago, on Tuesday in one of the tournament’s four quarterfinal matches.
Ho-Garcia got the proceedings going early with a goal in the sixth minute after Mark Pearson did some nice work through the midfield to get him the ball. Ho-Garcia tapped it in to give Canada the 1-0 lead.
In the fourteenth minute, he got his second of the game as a loose ball in the circle fell to his feet with his back to the goal. A quick spin and shot caught the Mexican keeper Moises Vargas flat-footed and it was 2-0 Canada by the end of the first quarter.
Canadian keeper David Carter wasn’t too busy in the first half, but made a key blocker save off a penalty corner to keep the Mexicans off the baord.
The scoreline remained the same until the second half when Canada had an offensive outburst.
Matthew Sarmento and Matthew Guest scored in the third quarter – with a Mexican goal sandwiched in between – before Sarmento added his second of the game, Paul Wharton his first, and Ho-Garcia added two more in the fourth quarter.
“The thing we’re more happy about is the way we scored the goals,” says Guest, who in addition to scoring once, was instrumental in the build-up to several Canadian goals. “It wasn’t so much individuals efforts as a lot of team goals, a lot of far post tap-ins. Those are things that Anthony, the coach, keeps drumming into us.”
Not only did the goals come in the way they wanted, seven of the eight came from the the team’s younger players. Ho-Garcia is only twenty-two and recently played in his 50th match for Canada, Wharton is only twenty-one, and Sarmento twenty-four.
“It’s huge,” adds Guest. “For the longest time we relied on senior guys to sort of wheel us through and now over the last tournaments, you look at the guys stepping up – Devohn (Noronha-Teixeira) stepping up at World League – and now another big tournament we’ve got young guys stepping up and putting the ball in the net.”
The concept of depth and team play is important for the Canadians as they head into the quarterfinals, knowing the road gets tougher from here.
Canada faces Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday and is hoping its hot start can continue and lead to two more victories and a spot in the Pan Am gold medal match for the eleventh straight tournament.
“Three and oh is nice,” says Ho-Garcia. “But we’ve got to keep working at it, and not take the foot off the pedal. Every game is hard.”
Of note, Paul Wharton playd in his 50th international match for Canada tonight. Guest will be playing in his 100th match in Tuesday’s quarterfinal.