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Canada snatch Olympic hockey berth
July 26, 2007 15:30 IST
Deadlocked at 2-2 after extra-time, Wayne Fernandes converted one of the biggest goals in Canadian hockey history, rifling a shot past the outstretched glove of Argentine goalkeeper Juan Manuel Vivaldi to give the Canadian a 5-4 shootout victory.
It marked the ninth consecutive time the two countries had clashed to decide the Panam gold, Canada getting the better of their South American rivals for the first time since 1999.
"I can't describe it," Fernandes told reporters. 'We played with Canadian grit, Canadian pride... our heart was just a bit bigger today.
"I knew just putting the ball in the net would give us the gold. There was no pressure, I trained for it and now we're going to the show."
While Canada regularly contends for World championship and Olympic gold in ice hockey, on grass the Canadian men have enjoyed only modest success, qualifying for the Olympics just five times since 1896 and the first time since 2000 Sydney Summer Games.
Argentina, ranked number six in the world, carried the play to the 15th-ranked Canadians for much of the final, twice taking the lead.
Rodrigo Vila scored the only goal of the opening half but Fernandes cancelled that out early in the second.
Maximilliano Lombi, the tournament's leading scorer, restored the Argentine advantage with his 10th strike of the Games, only for Connor Grimes to hit back for Canada with just over three minutes to play in regulation.
Level at 4-4 through the first round of the shootout, Canadian goalkeeper Michael Mahood denied Lombi, setting the stage for Fernandes's game-winner.
"We've had seven terrible years and this is the most important win of my career," said Canadian team captain Rob Short, who was earning his 248th cap.
"It means so much to me. What's so nice is there were guys out there that probably thought they would never get there.
"It's Canada hockey, it's the only way we know how. We were relentless."