Photo Credits : Yan Huckendubler

CANADA PUSHES EUROPEAN CHAMPS TO THE BRINK IN ROUND THREE THRILLER

It was a nightmare start for the Canadians, as goals off the sticks of Billy Bakker and Thierry Brinkman made the score 2-0 in the first five minutes of the game.

Canada, coming off a momentum building, albeit heartbreaking, loss to Great Britain, took the pitch this evening with ideas of taking aim at the European champs, and had hopes of three points and a win.

After the initial onslaught from the Dutch, Canada responded well, turning away a few key chances and creating a few of their own. In the 10th minute, Canadian forward Jamie Wallace breathed some air back into the Red Caribou’s tires. Brenden Bissett and Wallace made a nice little exchange in the Dutch end resulting in a circle entry and loose ball, which Wallace pounced on and made good from in-tight.

The goal marked the first Olympic tally and 14th international goal of the young Vancouverite’s career, but more importantly, it put Canada right back in the game. After the match, Wallace spoke about how Canada has been opportunistic in their chances but need to generate more offense to be able to consistently compete with these top nations.

“We knew they are a good team, we knew they were going to possess the ball for the most part, so when we got our chances, we had to make the most of them. And I think we did that tonight,” Wallace said. “We didn’t get many circle entries and at the end it just wasn’t enough.”


Canada takes on Netherlands in round three action in Tokyo. Photos/Yan Huckendubler


From that moment on, the game felt like an even affair. Despite surrendering more chances, Antoni Kindler stood tall in the Canadian net, blanking the Dutch on their penalty corner efforts. Canada may not have carried the possession in the game, but they pressed the Dutch hard on both sides of the ball. Captain Scott Tupper said it was in the game plan to frustrate Holland and force them to stray from their game.

“Without the ball, we wanted to disturb them and interrupt the natural flow of their game,” Tupper said. “Being able to kill that flow a bit, got them at times frustrated. It allowed us to be in the game with two minutes to go. It was right there for us, that was our opportunity, but unfortunately we couldn’t close at the end there.”

The game remained 2-1 until the late stages. Joep de Mol carried the ball down the right side and into the circle and caught everyone by surprise as he blasted a crossing attempt right on goal. The shot handcuffed Kindler and wound up in the Canadian net. The 50th-minute goal looked like it could have spelled death for the Canadians but giving up isn’t in this team’s DNA.

Three minutes later, Canada earned a penalty corner. With Johnston, Canada’s primary PC shooter, on the bench, captain Scott Tupper stepped into the spotlight. It was an all-time classic exchange between Mark Pearson and Tupper. The three-time Olympians showed their experience and poise as they linked up on a backdoor deflection set piece, Pearson getting the final touch, tipping the ball top corner.

Trailing by one at the 55-minute mark, Canada pulled Kindler from the net in favour of another field player. Despite a last-ditch attempt, Canada once again found themselves on the wrong end of a tight-scoring affair. The Dutch added a final minute empty-netter to seal the deal. And although Canada pressured the European champs to the bitter end, once again, it wasn’t enough.

Canadian defender, John Smythe already has eyes moving forward. The tall task is ahead of them, but the team knows exactly what they need to do.

“It’s not over. We have two more games, and we have six points to get, to push us into the quarters,” Smythe said.  “We’re going to hit the reset button. We have a rest day tomorrow, let’s get recovered and we’re going to focus on the next game and see if we can get six points.”

Canada takes on Belgium, the reigning world champions and European bronze medallists in their next game. Catch all the action on CBC.

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