AFTER a pool stage loss to Spain, the Canadian men’s Under-18 team made good on their chance for redemption with an exciting 6-5 shootout victory in the Youth Olympic Games semifinal Monday morning in Nanajing, China.
Canada will now face the world’s number one field hockey nation, Australia, for gold in another pool stage rematch on Wednesday morning.
“Above all else we are proud of the poise, confidence and heart our young men display while representing our country and sport as part of our larger Canadian Olympic Committee team in Nanjing,” says Field Hockey Canada Chief Executive Officer Jeff Sauvé.
The semifinal versus started how the pool stage match ended, with Spain controlling. The Spanish got out to an early 2-0 lead four minutes into the game.
Canada’s work was clearly laid out of in front of them, but after facing a considerable amount of adversity in their quarterfinal match against Pakistan – and coming out with a victory – they were up for the challenge.
The first response came in the form of an Amrith Sidhu goal in the seventh minute. The score stood at 2-1 for Spain.
The Spaniards added another in the thirteenth minute before Vikram Sandhu responded once again for Canada in the twenty-fourth.
The score was 3-2 after two periods and the see-saw battle continued in the third.
Spain extended its lead by one with a thirtieth minute goal from Lucas Garcia.
But the resiliency from the Canadians continued when Sidhu made it a one goal game in the thirty-first minute with his second of the match, and Balraj Panesar tied the game at four in the thirty-sixth.
The Canadians headed to a shootout for the second straight match.
Two of three shooters scored for each team (Amrith Sidhu and Vikram Sandhu for Canada) in the first round of shots, so with the match all square and sudden death shots were needed.
Sidhu, Panesar and Sandhu each converted during sudden death, as did three Spanish players to make it 5-5 after two rounds.
But a save from Liam Manning off Gonzalez de Castej on the fourth sudden death attempt and a third shootout goal from Sidhu sealed the victory for the Canadians and the berth in the gold medal match.
“Competing for Youth Olympic gold is the result of an integrated program designed with focus and intent. Our National coaches have created the conditions for success,” continues Sauvé.
“From trials to centralization to building the hockey 5s boards for training; the sustained commitment is outstanding.”
Australia is the world’s number one ranked men’s field hockey nation, the defending World Cup and Commonwealth Games champion and faced Canada in the pool stage of the Youth Olympics, coming out on top with a 5-2 win.
Canada, however, has shown that they have a penchant for the newly introduced “Hockey 5s” version of the game, which is similar to sports like street hockey and basketball.
The final versus Australia will take place on Wednesday at 8:30pm local (5:30 a.m. PST/8:30 a.m. EST).
(Photo credit: Xinhua News/IOC/Nanjing 2014)