Canada defeats Italy in Hockey Series Final semis and earns spot in finals vs host Spain. With the win, Canada also earned a spot in the final stage of Olympic qualification.
Team Canada, the 21st ranked team in the world, vs Italy, the 17th ranked team in the world.
Canada had a tough match up en route to the next stage of Olympic qualification. It was a close first quarter of play, with Italy putting a high pressure on Canada’s veteran defensive core. However, Canada’s defense, led by Dani Hennig stood strong against the pressure, and was able to keep the ball out of the net to start the game.
The game was at a standstill until the last minute of the first quarter, where Canada’s Sara McManus was able to capitalize on a penalty corner, with a great hit into the bottom corner of the net.
Italy pushed back early in the second quarter, trying to tie up the game with a few chances of their own. However, Canada’s defense was able to stand strong against the attack, and took advantage on the counter attack, with Rachel Donohoe and Brie Stairs both putting away counter attacking goals.
Going into the second half with a 3-0 lead was big accomplishment for the underdogs, but Canada was not done yet. Fitness played a role in the second half, with Canada putting on constant pressure. They were able to get lots of shots, and capitalized on two penalty corners, with two amazing shots from Karli Johansen.
Canada finished the game with an outstanding 7-0 lead, and advance to the next stage of qualification, which is a two game series against a top two Hockey Series Final winner. Win the series, go to the Olympics, lose the series, go home.
Hannah Haughn, veteran Canadian midfielder, who notched Canada’s seventh goal knows the sting of being eliminated from Olympic contention. With Canada moving on successfully, she gave an emotional interview after the game to the FIH reporters, saying that, “this moment means everything for us.”
“I’m so proud of how we’ve been able to come together through the highs and the lows…and come out on top,” Haughn said.
With the win, Canada will be in the championship match tomorrow of the 2019 FIH Hockey Series Finals against host nation, Spain. The crowd will be full of hometown supporters, as Canada will look to upset the fans in Valencia.