PHOTO: Canadian defender Adam Froese chases Thomas Craig in Canada’s 3-0 loss to Australia on April 15 at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.
In its final round robin match at the 2016 Azlan Shah Cup, the Canadian men’s field hockey team lost 3-0 to the world’s number one ranked team, Australia, Friday in Malaysia.
The Canadians needed a win to have a chance to play for 3rd, but were not able to come up with the three points. The loss means the Canadians will play for 5th place against Pakistan Saturday at 3:40pm (12:40am PT/3:40am ET in Canada). Canada and Pakistan played in the tournament’s opening match, with Pakistan coming away with a 3-1 win.
Australia went into Friday’s match undefeated and with top spot clinched, meaning they would play in the tournament final on Saturday regardless of the outcome against Canada. Despite that, the tournament’s top team began its final match strongly putting the pressure on the Canadians early.
They earned a penalty corner in the fourth minute, but the dragflick from Jeremy Hayward hit an Aussie and Canada got away unpunished.
The Canadians quickly settled into their defensive shape, knowing that if they were to have any chance to win, they would have to keep the Australians – who entered the match with 18 goals for over 5 matches – off the scoreboard as much as possible.
Canada did well defending well in the first quarter. While Australia controlled possession for the majority of the first fifteen minutes, the Aussies were not able to generate a prime scoring opportunity after the initial corner.
Canada’s good defending, however, meant they would only generate a few offensive opportunities throughout the game.
The Australians opened the scoring in the 16th minute when they picked up another corner. Canadian keeper David Cater made a strong save on the dragflick from Chris Cirello, but the Aussies picked up two rebounds, the second of which was put by Carter by Mark Knowles.
Carter kept the game at 1-0 in the 18th minute when Thomas Craig got by a Canadian midfielder and went for a run which ended in him finding Blake Govers in tight. Govers deflected the ball towards goal but was stopped by Carter.
Canada was given a chance to work towards an equalizer in the 25th minute, when veteran Australian Jamie Dwyer was sent off for two minutes after a stick tackle on Adam Froese.
The Canadians, however, were not able to create an opportunity with the extra man, or before the end of the first half.
At the start of the second half, the Australians added to their lead when they were given a chance to play with the extra man.
Iain Smythe was sent for five minutes with a yellow card and Australia immediately pulled their goalie in favour of a “kicking back,” a defender who has both player and goalkeeper privileges.
With no goalkeeper and Canada on a yellow card, the Australians were up two men. They quickly earned a corner and Govers’ flick was quite easily saved by Carter. But Australia, with constant pressure, earned another corner moments later and this time made good on the chance.
It was Govers again, who chose a sweeping hit at the Canadian post-man Scott Tupper, who got a piece of the ball, but not all of it and Australia took a 2-0 lead in the 33rd minute.
They would add another with the extra-man in the 36th minute on a Flynn Ogilvie diving deflection in close before the teams returned to even strength.
The Canadians had their best chances to break the shutout and close the gap late in the fourth quarter.
In the 55th minute, Tupper scooped a ball overhead to Matthew Sarmento who earned a free hit. It was taken quickly by Sukhi Panesar, who then earned Canada’s first penalty corner of the game. Gordie Johnston took the flick and it seemed as though he was aiming for a runner to his right, but the Canadian couldn’t get there in time and the ball went wide.
In the final minute, Mark Pearson had the ball in the Aussie circle, where he was surrounded by two Australian players. He flipped the ball up and stickhandled in their air to get out of the jam, got a diving shot on goal which was stopped by Tyler Lovell, and in the process won Canada’s second corner.
Tupper took a dragflick which hit the foot of the Australian post-man, who was ruled to be behind the goalkeeper and therefore blocking a ball destined for goal. Canada was given a penalty stroke, which Tupper also took. His quick shot, though, was stopped by a great kick save from Lovell and Canada was left off the scoreboard.
The Canadians will face Pakistan in the 5th place match Saturday at 3:40pm in Malaysia (12:40am PT/3:40am ET).