PHOTO: Brienne Stairs carries the ball in the 2017 Pan American Cup bronze medal game versus the United States.
The 2017 Pan American Cup Women’s bronze medal game stoked a familiar North American rivalry as Canada and United States faced one another, in a rematch following their recent tie in pool play, and game which broke the United States’ 26 game win streak.
The United States came out on top, taking the game with a tight score of 2-1. But Canada, ranked 19th in the world, showed a valiant effort to challenge the world’s ranked number four, U.S.A.
The first quarter was filled with exciting & tiring, end to end hockey. Canada maintained their share of possession and both sides saw their chances, but it was the USA who earned their fair share of penalty corner opportunities.
Goalkeeper Rowan Harris strongly defended the Canadian Women’s net with bold saves on penalty corners and near breakaways. Through the back and forth play, in the 19th minute, a near perfect drag flick from Karli Johansen hit the back of the net to light up the scoreboard 1-0 for Canada.
Following the goal, the USA went on the counter attack and Canada’s defence stepped up accordingly, to stop all USA advances in a terrific coordinated defensive effort.
Coming out of halftime, team U.S.A. came out to dominate. They kept Canada on their heels defending, stripped any opportunity for Canada to maintain possession, and earned numerous penalty corner calls.
Harris came out strong on a barrage of U.S.A. opportunities, but in the 40th minute a drag flick off a penalty corner slipped by her pads to tie the game at 1.
Following their disappointing third quarter, The Women’s National team came out early to knock at the doorstep of the U.S.A. net and earned a penalty corner. The Canadian Women missed their opportunity and the USA ran it right back to earn a penalty corner of their own, which they executed strongly to see their second goal of the game, and take the lead 2-1.
In the following minutes of the fourth quarter, Canada found themselves bogged down by strong U.S. checking and a high rate of turnovers that kept the ball of of the Canadian hands.
With three minutes to go, Head Coach Ian Rutledge pulled goalkeeper Harris for the extra attacker. With the additional stick on the turf, Brienne Stairs marched down the pitch, teammates in tow, to earn a penalty corner for Canada.
Canada put the ball in that back of the net, but not before an early call from the umpire for a foot in the circle. The goal was disallowed because the whistle had been blown already, and after on-field complaints from the players, the short corner was then waved off as well.
This would be the last real chance Canada would see in the dying seconds of the game, and team USA took the bronze medal with a 2-1 win over Canada.
In the 2017 Pan Am Cup final match up, Argentina’s Women beat Chile 4-1, to set up gold and silver, respectively – the first time in history that the Pan American Cup was not contested by Argentina and the U.S.A.
Walking away from the competition, successfully challenging higher ranking teams, and coming out with a fourth place standing, the Women’s National team was proud of the playing level they brought to the table.
“There’s a lot of positives to take out of the match. We came out really hard and we knew what we needed to do, and I think that for the most part we did that,” Canadian defender Shanlee Johnston said. “There were a couple lapses here and there that hurt us, but we know we can keep up with a team in the top 5 in the world.”
As for what’s next, Johnston and the rest of the Women’s National team are looking forwards toward winter training and their next big international tournament.
“We’re just focusing on the next big competition, we go to the Commonwealth Games in April. We’re just keeping our heads up and working hard for the next period.”
You can catch Canada’s Women play their next international game April 4-15, 2018 during those Commonwealth Games held this year, in Queensland, Australia (broadcast TBA).
To see the full tournament photo album for Canada’s Women, click here.