PHOTO: Kaitlyn Williams (left) and Karli Johansen (centre) of Canada in a friendly match vs New Zealand in Hamilton, NZL on March 24, 2016 (Courtesy of Planet Hockey Magazine).
After playing two test matches against New Zealand, the world’s fourth ranked women’s field hockey team, the Canadian Women’s National Team now sets its sights on the Hawke’s Bay Cup which begins April 2nd in New Zealand.
Canada dropped its second test match against the Blacksticks by a score of 5-1 Monday in New Zealand, after the Kiwis got off to a quick start scoring two goals in the first quarter.
The Canadians responded well in the second quarter with veteran Thea Culley powering a shot by goalkeeper Amelia Gibson in the eighteenth minute. The Blacksticks added a third goal and took a 3-1 lead into the second half en route to the 5-1 win.
Highlights of Test Match #2 between Canada and New Zealand:
While the scores of the two matches might suggest the Canadian women were outmatched, the assessment from Women’s National Team coach Ian Rutledge suggests otherwise. He is encouraged.
“The girls have played really well as a collective and I think individually they’re all in top form,” he said before the team travelled to Napier ahead of the start of the Hawke’s Bay Cup this weekend. “I think as a team it’s probably the best two games I’ve seen us play.”
The two test matches against New Zealand were as much about about preparation as they were about the scoreline of each individual match. With Canada set to compete with five teams ranked in the top ten in the world, in addition to two others in the top twenty during the Hawke’s Bay Cup, playing against top tier competition as a tune-up was key in the processes of being ready for the tournament.
“The matches have been extremely beneficial,” Rutledge added. “Against excellent opposition, number four in the world, in front of a good crowd, in a televised event, the experience on so many levels has been really valuable for us.”
In addition to the two official test matches, the Canadians also played the Kiwis in a friendly earlier this week. And when all was said and done, Rutledge believed the Canadians have position themselves well ahead of the Hawke’s Bay tournament.
In the final game against the Blacksticks, Canada generated 13 shots to New Zealand’s 15, a clear sign that the Canadians were there to play.
Rutledge says the scores are a result of the Kiwis clinical finishing, something which the Canadians have been working hard at improving.
“We really put our game out there and we were able to control some passages of the game and we improved from game one to game two” he said. “I think we’re ready. But we still have to turn up on Saturday and Sunday.”
Canada opens the Hawke’s Bay Cup on April 2nd against Korea at 11:00am local time.