FOUR OF FIVE TEAMS COME HOME WITH MEDALS
The 2018 Field Hockey National Championship kicked off on July 12th with the first of three age groups, the U15’s. With the top team out of Pool B, Ontario’s pool, getting an automatic bye to the semifinals, Ontario knew that a first place finish was crucial.
The U15 team started off the tournament on the Thursday with an impressive 5-0 win over Alberta. Ontario followed up the Alberta win with another clean sheet victory over the BC Lions 3-0. However, with the Quebec 1 team also making easy work of both the Alberta and BC teams, the clash between Ontario and Quebec 1 would ultimately decide first and second in the pool. Because of goal differential (Quebec 1’s being a +14 and Ontario’s being a +8), the game was a must win for the Ontario team if they wanted to bypass the quarterfinals. Ontario went down in the 48th minute and it was not looking good for the boys; however, with a goal from Ontario’s Chris Swanston hope was still there. Unfortunately, Ontario just wasn’t able to capitalize again late and was forced to settle for the 1-1 tie and second in the group.
With Pool A also falling into place, Ontario’s second place finish set them up for a showdown with the Quebec 2 team in the quarterfinals, the victor to play the winner of the BC Rams vs. BC Lions in the semis. Team Ontario struck early, scoring in the 7th minute of the game and never looked back, booking their ticket into the semis with a convincing 6-1 win over Quebec 2.
Although the quarters seemed like a walkover for the boys, the semis were going to present a huge challenge, the team having to face the Pool A winner, the BC Rams. The boys put their heart and soul into the game but couldn’t come out with the win against the eventual silver medalist BC team. With the USA team downing the Albertans, the Ontario U15 boys were guaranteed the bronze medal at Nationals no matter the result against the neighbor to the south. The team fought extremely hard against the American team but fell just short, losing 1-0. Although the team didn’t end the tournament with a win, all the boys were extremely happy to come home with the bronze medal.
The second of three tournaments, the U18 tournament, commenced on the 17th, one day after the crazy U15 medal games. This division featured two Ontario teams, Ontario Central and Ontario East, set up in different pools. Pool A featured Ontario Central competing with Quebec, Alberta and the BC Lions. Pool B featured Ontario East along with the BC Rams and Team USA. Similarly to the U15 competition, the top team (this time in Pool A) received a bye to the semifinals while the remaining six teams had to fight it out in the quarterfinals.
Starting with Pool A and Ontario Central…
Ontario Central, likewise of the U15 boys, opened up their tournament with two solid wins, this time over Quebec and the BC Lions. In their third game however, the team battled hard but a last minute goal by Alberta sealed the game and Ontario Central’s fate of second in the group. The Ontario team would have finished first if they had held on to the tie.
Pool B was all about positioning for the quarters. Ontario East was faced with an extremely tough challenge, the BC Rams, in their first game, the somewhat “favourite” of the pool. The team battled strong throughout but couldn’t find the twine falling short 4-0. The boys picked each other up and were back at it in the second game of round robin play against USA. East had a strong showing, going up 4-1 just over halfway through the second half and never looked back, beating USA 4-1 and finishing second in Pool B.
Ontario’s quarterfinals kicked off with the Central team facing off against the USA team that the East team had just taken care of. Ont Central went up 2-0 after the first half. USA did inch back with a goal in the 61st minute but it was not enough to beat Ontario Central. The Central team moved onto the semis to play the winner of the all BC quarterfinal battle, the Rams. Ontario East was lined up to play Alberta in the quarterfinals, Ont Central’s last round robin matchup. After going down 2-0, East was able to crawl its way back and equalize in the 62nd minute; however, Alberta struck three times within the next eight minutes and knocked the East team out of medal contention and into the consolation bracket. The East went 1-1 in the consolation pool but due to goal differential finished 7th overall.
With the first semifinal over and Quebec advancing to the final, all eyes were on the second semi between Ont Central and the BC Rams. After a scoreless first half, BC struck first in the 43rd minute on a penalty stroke. Battling hard themselves, Ontario Central were awarded their own penalty stroke three minutes later, Ganga Singh converting to tie the game. Play went back and forth after that but neither team was able to put anything in the net, sending this semifinal to a shootout. Ont Central’s goalie Jesse Carvalho was able to stop three out of the four BC shootout attempts and with Ontario capitalizing on two of three so far Ganga Singh had the chance to end the game. With an amazing change of direction to fool the goalie and a dive to put the ball in the net, Singh sealed the deal for his team and gave Ontario Central a birth into the finals.
As the Gold Medal game got underway Ont Central was looking outmatched, allowing two Quebec goals in the first half. Central scored in the 47th minute to cut the deficit to one but just didn’t have enough to put another one in and ultimately fell short of gold by the score of 2-1. Ontario Central showed incredible fight and were very proud of their silver medal.
The third and final tournament to get underway in Toronto was the U23 division. The division consisted of only one pool made up of four teams, including two from Ontario. With the United States also in the U23 this meant both Ontario men’s teams (Red and White) were coming home with medals.
Ont White’s journey started off with a tough matchup against a strong BC team. The men fell short, losing 4-0 but were able to bounce back the next morning with a convincing 5-2 win against USA.
Ont Red had a reverse schedule, playing USA first and then BC second. Ontario was also able to take care of the United States team, winning 3-1, and pulled out another strong showing, tying the BC team at three-a-piece.
That left one last round robin game for each team with the Ontario teams facing off against each other. With Ontario Red scoring the only goal in the 21st minute they were able to secure the win and second place because of BC’s thwacking of the United States team. This left Ontario White with the third place seed in the group heading into the semis, setting up an Ontario rematch for a gold medal birth. Once again it was Ontario Red taking the game, this time with a wider margin (4-1) securing Red’s chance to fight for gold and White’s fight for bronze.
Kicking off at 4:30pm on the final day of competition, USA and Ontario White started to battle it out for bronze. Ont White went down early but was able to tie the game at one, heading into the second half. It wasn’t until the 56th minute when Ontario’s Divyanshu Saini broke the tie and gave White the bronze medal win.
Also kicking off at 4:30pm, Ontario Red was ready to battle it out for gold with BC. As hard as Red fought they turned out to be no match for the extremely talented BC team and were not able to generate any offence. Three BC goals in the first half seemed to kill Ontario spirit and the men ultimately fell 4-0. Both Ontario teams were extremely happy with way they played over the final weekend and although neither team got the golden result that they wanted both were excited to be going home with medals.
Overall, it was a very strong showing from all Ontario male teams throughout their respective divisions, showing the true potential of Ontario teams in tournaments to come. It will be exciting to see the talent progress as the years go on. Way to go Ontario!
Thanks to everyone who participated, supported, assisted in making the 2018 Nationals Championships a success!
Special thanks to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, for with out your support we wouldn't be able to grow the sport!