Grass-ping glory

JOHN SHORT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

Field hockey has gone back to its roots at the Western Canada Summer Games.

"We don't normally play on grass anymore," technical director Tony Stewart said after Alberta whipped Saskatchewan 7-0 at the Strathcona Pitch in Sherwood Park yesterday.

"At top competitive levels artificial surfaces have been in use for about 20 years."

In these Games, grass is fine.

"This might be the best grass surface in all of Canada right now," said Stewart, who competed in Scotland more than 30 years ago and still plays in a Calgary league.

Kincso Santha and Carrie Yap scored two goals each as Alberta qualified to meet B.C. today for the gold medal. Saskatchewan faces Manitoba for the bronze.

Hilary Buckley, Jennifer Peacock and Carly Presakarchuk completed the scoring.

After Buckley tallied in the opening minutes, Saskatchewan stayed within range until well into the second half of the 70-minute contest.

Stephanie Petrowitsch got credit for the shutout, while Mira Havelock-Rice made several good saves at the other end of the field.

B.C. has more active field hockey players than the rest of Canada combined and routinely dominates national competitions, Stewart said. There are at least seven excellent artificial surfaces for field hockey in the Lower Mainland alone.

Even so, he was anticipating a good, close final.

"Their first game (2-0 for unbeaten B.C. to open the tournament) was quite tense."

One top under-19 player from each province - Danielle Hare of Calgary and Leila Sacre of B.C. - would add to the quality, but both are on scholarships at New York's Syracuse University.

Manitoba's 2-1 round-robin victory over Manitoba also went down to the dying minutes.

"We had Manitoba tied until the last three minutes," said Saskatchewan coach Stefanie Sloboda, a University of Alberta phys-ed grad who doubles as Saskatchewan's technical director.

"We were trailing by a goal but then we scored and the game was tied for a long time.

"I'm sure we can play better."

Stewart described the quality of play as "quite good."

The national field hockey tournament was conducted several days ago in Toronto - "Alberta didn't do particularly well," he said - and many of the players in this event were key components on their provincial teams.

Although crowds at this competition have been sparse, Canadian field hockey is respected around the world, Stewart said.

The national men's team qualified for the Beijing Olympics by defeating Argentina in the final of the Pan American Games.

"I believe it's the first time we've ever beaten Argentina while playing outside of North America," Stewart said.

Previously, Canadian men won gold medals in Pan Am Games at Indianapolis and Winnipeg.


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