US Indoor Uses CanAm Test Series as Final Preparation for Pan Am Cup

March 19, 2014, 1:03 p.m. (ET)

U.S. Indoor Uses CanAm Test Series as Final Preparation for Pan Am Cup

The U.S. Men’s and Women’s Indoor National Squads took on Canada in a three-match test series this weekend at the University of Toronto. Field Hockey Canada played host to the annual CanAm Indoor Test series that began last year. The teams will meet again in the Pan American Cup in April, making the series a critical last tune-up for both sides.

“Building this strong relationship with Canada is very important to us, and having these two CanAm events this cycle helps solidify that bond,” said Head Women’s Coach Denise Zelenak. “We are not Europe where travel is not a challenge and competitive teams are close at hand; we essentially only have each other and by having a neighbor who is strong we stay challenged, thus motivated.”

“This weekend with Field Hockey Canada was a good learning experience for the young U.S. Men’s Squad,” said U.S. Indoor Manager Nigel Traverso. “We are looking forward to the upcoming Pan Am Indoor Cup in Uruguay and putting what we have learned here this weekend into competition.”

The U.S. Women’s National Indoor Squad started the series off strongly with an impressive 5-1 win Saturday morning. Canada opened the match with aggressive play and forced U.S. goalkeeper Maria Keesling (Downingtown Pa.) to make two saves in the opening minutes. The U.S. proved to be strong on the counter attack and Susan Ciufo (Bangor, Pa.) opened the scoring in the 4th minute with a quick shot from the left side of the circle to beat Canada’s goalkeeper at the near post. The lead increased to two in the 12th minute when U.S. defender Kim Tunell (Wilmington, Del.) fed a ball to Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) who curled to the right baseline to beat the last defender and snuck a low angle shot into an open net. Less than a minute later Matson scored her second of the match off another right side feed from Tunell to take the U.S. in to halftime with a 3-0 lead.

Canada came out strong in the second half and earned a corner in the 1st minute. U.S. keeper Ashley Dalisera (Millersville, Md.) turned away the initial shot but the follow-up was sent high into the middle of the cage to move the score to 3-1. In the 29th minute the U.S. capitalized on a turnover and Kim Susko (Short Hills, N.J.) found Matson at the top of the circle. Matson dodged a defender and again found the back of the net for her third goal of the match. Canada continued to battle back and in the 35th minute, Dalisera was forced to turn away a flurry of shots. On the ensuing penalty corner, Canada was unable to score and U.S. defender Lauren Hibshman (Allentown, Pa.) found Matson up the right board for another open net goal to take the score to 5-1. That proved to be the final score despite a strong counter attack play with 7 seconds left in the match and a corner awarded to Canada with no time left. Maeve Doherty (Millersville, Md.) and Alexa Hoover (Collegeville, Pa.) earned their first caps for the U.S. in the match.

In the second meeting of the day, Canada brought early high pressure and capitalized with two goals in the first few minutes of the match. Back and forth physical play continued throughout the first half and Canada put a penalty corner goal away in the 18th minute. In the final moments of the half, the U.S. Women earned a corner but were unable to convert. Canada again came out of halftime strong and put a fourth goal in from the low left baseline. In the 3rd minute of the half, Ciufo and Matson connected again as Ciufo, under hard pressure, found Matson on the left side to put the U.S. on the board. Just a few minutes later Hoover stole the ball from a Canadian defender and scored an unassisted goal from the middle of the circle. Ten minutes into the second half, a Canadian player was caught breaking early on a penalty corner and was sent to mid court, forcing them to defend the corner with only a goalkeeper and two defenders. The U.S. team capitalized on the opportunity and Matson put away a pass from Ciufo to cut the lead to one.

The U.S. brought more pressure and a flurry of shots with less than 7 minutes remaining, forcing Canada to call timeout with 6:30 left in the match. Although Head Coach Zelenak pulled the goalkeeper to add a fifth field player and the U.S. generated attack but they were unable to score the tying goal and lost the match 3-4.

The third and final match was held Sunday morning and this time the U.S. women jumped out to an early lead as Matson put away her seventh goal of the series off a feed from Ciufo in the 1st minute of the match. Matson then earned a penalty corner in the third minute and Rachael Milne (Hatfield, Pa.) converted to increase the lead to two. Canada brought more pressure but was turned away by the U.S. defense and goalkeeper Keesling until the 13th minute when they scored to move to within one. The intensity of play remained high for the remainder of the half and the U.S. women were able to increase their lead when Hoover finished a feed from Amy Daniel (Mountain Top, Pa.) in the 18th minute. Canada generated more offense in the waning minutes of the half and snuck in a close range tally in the final minute of the period.

In the final half of the series, the intensity and physicality of play increased and both teams earned penalty corners and attack opportunities but neither side was able to score until the last three minutes of the match. Hoover scored her third goal of the series in the 37th minute unassisted to take the score to 4-2. Canada immediately increased the pressure and scored when a shot deflected off a U.S. stick to fly high into the cage over the U.S. goalkeeper to cut the U.S. lead to one. A Canadian corner with no time left proved tense but their shot didn’t find the net and the U.S. women preserved the 4-3 win for their second victory of the series.

“Having a highly intense competition a few weeks prior to the Indoor Pan American Cup gives a better understanding of what the competition will be, and gives us a gauge of where we are in our own preparation,” said Zelenak. “It motivates our squad to work even harder and value the details as we work to peak in Uruguay.”

The U.S. Men’s National Indoor Squad started their first game off strong, but were unable to sustain their lead. Within 20 seconds of the start, the US team generated flowing movement from the defense, ending with a deflection from Ajai Dhadwal (Agoura Hills, Cali.) into the goal. For the remainder of the first half, Canada capitalized off of Team USA turnovers. With the U.S. down 5-1 at half-time, they made several tactical adjustments and tied the 2nd half 1-1. William Holt (Camarillo, Cali.) scored the second goal of the match which ended 6-2 in favor of Canada.

The second game of the evening did not start off well for Team USA, who was down 3-0 within the first 5 minutes of play. Once the U.S. settled into their own, they generated several scoring opportunities which were saved by Canada on the line. Jaja Kentwell (Spring City, Pa.) scored the lone goal for Team USA in their 1-6 loss.

Match three proved to be the best match play for Team USA, who came out with intensity. The score remained tied at 0 for much of first half play. Canada finally knocked one in only to be immediately answered by the U.S. thanks to a well-executed corner from Mike Barminski (Ventura, Cali.). Unable to sustain the pressure, the U.S. fell 4-1 at the end of the half and the score line was maintained for the full second half.

“This was our final weekend of selection against a very good Canadian Squad who is currently ranked number 7 in the newly released FIH Indoor World Ranking,” said Traverso. “The U.S. Men are ranked number 13. We competed with them for long spells, but couldn't manage to take control of the game as we would have liked.”

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