Defender to goal machine

GLEN DAWKINS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

As a reserve player on the Canadian men's national field hockey team, Johnathan Roberts is your typical stay-at-home defender. His chief responsibility is keeping the ball out of his own net.

But put Roberts in an indoor field hockey game with its fewer players and compact playing surface and the left wing/middle becomes a regular scoring machine.

This weekend, he showcased his offensive talents at the Field Hockey Canada Senior Men's Indoor National Championships at Kildonan East Collegiate.

"(The indoor game) sharpens up your skills," said Roberts, who fired five goals including two on penalty strokes as the Ontario Titans B team thrashed Alberta Simba 9-1 to capture the gold medal.

The 21-year-old from Toronto was the tournament leading scorer with 21 goals and was selected to the Tournament Six all-star squad.

David Almeida and Devohn Teixeira added two goals each while all-star Ashish Bhandari replied for Alberta.

REPRESENTS CANADA

Born in Ottawa, Roberts began playing field hockey with his father and two older brothers in Guyana and earned a spot on the under-21 Guyana national team at the age of 13. Returning to Canada as a teenager, he has represented Canada with the national team 10 times outdoors and 17 times indoors.

Last year, Roberts helped Canada capture the Indoor Pan Am Cup in Kitchener, Ont., to qualify for the International Hockey Federation Men's Indoor World Cup next February in Vienna, Austria.

He missed out earning a berth on the Commonwealth Games team currently playing in Melbourne, Australia and he's hoping his indoor success will translate into a spot on the outdoor squad.

"There's a World Cup qualifier (next month in China) coming up right after this so I'm hoping to get out to Vancouver to try out for that team," said Roberts.

Also making the trip to Vienna will be Ontario Titans B goalkeeper Hari Kant, who retired from the national outdoor team after helping Canada finish 10th at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

"Luckily, you're allowed to play on the indoor (national team) without making the big commitment that the outdoor team requires," said Kant, who allowed an early goal in yesterday's final before shutting the door on the Alberta snipers. "They're an Olympic team and there's a funding thing and a big commitment issue. I have my own business and things that I have to tend to.

"As a result I can train for the four to six months it takes to prepare for the Indoor World Cup somewhat part-time and be able to play."

Kant was a member of the Canadian team that finished sixth at the 2003 Indoor World Cup, the only non-European team to crack the top six.

"We want to go there and see if we can get a medal," he said.

In the bronze medal game, national indoor team members Adam Ali and Sean Barretto had five and three goals respectively as Ontario Titans A blanked the Ontario under-19 team 10-0. The Titans split into two teams to allow the organizers to maintain an eight-team schedule despite the last-minute withdrawal of British Columbia.

Manitoba edged the Alberta Vipers 2-1 to finish fifth. Gurinder Darhela and Jatinder Phangureh scored for Manitoba while Gurbinder Sohal was named to the all-star squad.


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