Saturday’s final day of the 2017 Indoor Pan Am Hockey Cup at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall, Georgetown, Guyana, showcased a herculean effort from the Hockey Tridents to secure fifth place over CAC counterparts, Mexico.
Mexico had the honour of the first touch of the match and started a bit slower than their round-robin encounter with Barbados, taking a bit more care in their positioning and passing and measuring the Barbados defence. Early in the second, Mexico’s first attack down the right flank was firmly guided out of play by the Barbados on-court captain, Dave Cox.
The Hockey Tridents looked a bit slow and unfocused in the opening exchanges. This error was fully exploited by Mexico’s Cristhopher Vigueras, as he attacked down the right side, this time flashing a cross towards the goal from close to the baseline that Barbados custodian Keenan Knight mistook for going wide and courteously stepped out the way, allowing it into the goal and giving Mexico the lead in the third minute.
The early goal jolted the Hockey Tridents into action and they quickly responded, earning a penalty corner in the fifth, converted using a “back-to-the-pusher” routine, which went from Che Warner, to Neil Franklin and back to Warner for a comfortable deflection into the Mexico goal levelling the scores at 1 – 1.
The pace of the match quickly increased, with both sides now trying to gain the lead and creating end-to-end chances. It would be Mexico who broke the deadlock after employing a two-man press and earning a penalty corner in the 12th. Mexico’s captain Alan Baas made no mistake with this one and whipped his shot past Knight into the roof of the Barbados goal, giving Mexico the 2 – 1 lead.
Playing with the tempo now, Baas ran with a counterattack down the Barbados left side, eliminating the Barbados mid-court players and taking a lifted shot off the right foot, beating a diving Knight on his right side and scoring Mexico’s 3rd goal, making the score at half-time 3 – 1 to Mexico.
After the restart, Mexico continued with the tempo and continually tested the Barbados defence without success due to some solid defensive work. It would not be until five minutes into the second half, that Mexico’s Luis Solorzano took a fast break up his left side and executed a timely scoop shot from the left, that caught Knight moving and increasing Mexico’s lead to 4 – 1 in the 25th.
Freshly motivated, the Hockey Tridents went up a gear and from the touch, pressed Mexico high and hard, which resulted in Baas sending Cox to ground in the “D” with an over enthusiastic shoulder, drawing a penalty stroke call from the umpire. Barbados’ Neil Franklin, stepped up to take the stroke, which he shot intently into the low left corner beating Mexico’s goalkeeper Roberto Orozco and pulling one back for the Hockey Tridents in the 26th minute.
With a renewed sense of urgency, shortly after the Mexico touch, Barbados continued their all-out press on Mexico. A skillful run from Barbados forward Akeem Rudder ended in a yellow card for him, after using a bit of excessive aggression while eliminating the Mexico right back. With Barbados down to five men for two minutes, Mexico held the numerical advantage, but this would not stop Warner from sending a searching ball up the middle to young Javier Wharton, who was well positioned for his light deflection past Orozco into the Mexico goal in the 27th, decreasing the deficit to just one.
With the momentum squarely in favour of the Hockey Tridents, their pressing would yield another penalty corner in the 33rd minute. The Hockey Tridents executed a perfect penalty corner routine, which started with an injection from veteran Aaron Forde, to Laurando Davis, then back over to the right to Warner, who stopped it for Rudder to expertly finish into an open Mexico goal, leveling the scores at 4 – 4. It was so nice, they had to do it twice. Awarded with yet another penalty corner in the 38th, Barbados executed the same routine, this time using Cox as the injector, allowing Rudder to net his second of the match beating Orozco and giving Barbados the lead for the first time in the match at 5 – 4, with 2 minutes left on the clock – a lifetime in indoor hockey.
Mexico restarted quickly, perhaps wondering how they lost a three-goal cushion, but with under two minutes left, it was all business. An experienced Warner took advantage of a call in Barbados’ favour and slowed the game down to carefully position the ball, then caught the Mexico defence sleeping with a direct searching pass that found captain Cox, lurking at the top of the Mexico “D” where he deflected the ball with the faintest of touches past Orozco in the 39th, scoring his first of the match and extending Barbados’ lead to 6 – 4.
Mexico earned a penalty corner in the dying seconds, but could not convert so Barbados walked away with the 6 – 4 victory and a well-deserved 5th place.
In other finals matches, tournament favorites Canada got the edge over the hosts Guyana, defeating them 5 – 2 to take the Bronze medal and in the final match, a speedy and clinical Trinidad & Tobago man-handled Pan Am Outdoor Hockey powerhouse Argentina, schooling them with a 7 – 0 lesson to take the gold medal and earn their spot in the 2018 FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup, taking place in Berlin, Germany in February 2018. (KH)