A determined Canadian team suffered a last minute, heartbreaking loss to Russia in the 5/6 qualifying game at the Champions’ Challenge II tournament in Vienna. Prior to the match, Kate Gillis was honoured for receiving her 50th international cap, joining team mates Abi Raye and Tyla Flexman on achieving this milestone at this tournament.
Canada dominated with pressure on Russia in the first fifteen minutes. In the 11th minute, a hard shot into the circle by Krissy Wishart was deflected by Marian Dickinson to give Canada a 1-0 lead. Three minutes later Canada just missed adding to their lead when a Sam Smith shot into the circle was deflected just wide.
Russia equalized in the 17th minute when a speedy counter-attack resulted in a 2 on 1 break. After goalkeeper Liu forced the shooter wide, a diving Steph Jameson just missed the ball before it went into the net. The score was tied at 1-1.
Back and forth action ensued in an entertaining game, with both teams generating chances. Russia was awarded a Penalty Corner at 22′, shooting wide. Russia’s quick counter-attacks kept the Canadian defenders on their toes, with Sam Smith and Steph Jameson combining at 24′ to stymie a fine Russian run and Abi Raye making a hard run back at 29′ to thwart a Russian chance.
Russia took the lead just before the half ended on a Penalty Corner awarded at 33′. The ball was struck low and hard into the corner of the net giving Russia a 2-1 lead at the half.
At 41′ Kate Gillis was sent in alone, only to have the umpire call the play back for a Russian foul, neglecting to give the Canadian player her deserved advantage. However, just a minute later in the midst of a goal mouth scramble Canada was awarded a Penalty Stroke. After seemingly endless theatrics by the Russian goalkeeper, Di Roemer just missed high stick side, and the Russians retained their lead.
In the 50th minute, Canada tied when a bouncing ball was set in to the circle by Sam Smith. A series of shots and rebounds by Jess Walkey and Marian Dickinson resulted in Walkey finally putting the ball into the back of the net to bring Canada up to 2-2.
Equal, end to end play continued with each team given a Green Card in the last ten minutes. Goalkeeper Liu made another fine save on a Penalty Corner at 64′, and just seconds later a Russian player shot high after stealing the ball at the top of the Canadian circle.
At 68′ Russia earned yet another Penalty Corner. Following play, a quick transition resulted in a Canadian defensive scramble and a sole Russian player an opportunity that she did not hesitate to take. The late goal put Russia up 3-2 putting Canada into the 7th/8th place game on Sunday. Though heart-broken, Canada will take away several great learning experiences, particularly in tournament settings. With one more game to go, Canada will have a rest day tomorrow while the semi-finals take place.
Canada now plays at 9:00 am (local time) on Sunday versus Austria for 7th/8th place.
Starting line-up – A. Liu, S. Jameson, S. Smith, D. Roemer, A. Raye, K. Baker, T. Flexman, K. Wishart, K. Gillis, J. Walkey, T. Culley.
Substitutes – S. McManus, K. Collison, M. Dickinson, C. O’Hara, H. Haughn.
DNP – K. Williams, D. Hennig.