Calgary, CAN (March 16) – Water Polo Canada officials argued over the last time it happened. The best guess was 1976, but it didn't matter. The last time Canada beat the USA in men's water polo was a long, long time ago.
Finally! After years of struggling, and playing second fiddle to the successful Canadian women's program, the Canadian men appear to have turned a
corner toward international respectability. Or so they hope. For as Scarlet O'Hara once said, "Tomorrow is another day." But on this night, the big crowd at the Lindsay Park Sports Center was going to savor every minute as the game's end set off a celebration that was Canada Day and New Year's Eve rolled into one. You might have thought the game meant that the Canadian dollar was brought to a par with the American one they were so happy.
It was a game that started out like so many other USA-Canadian men's games in recent years, but ended like one of the games played by the two women's teams. Coming immediately to mind is the USA-Canada women's game at Sydney when the USA rallied for three goals in the final 1:48 to earn a tie. The USA went on to win the Olympic Silver medal.
Ryan Bailey, the powerful 6'5" 240 lb. Olympian from UCI and Long Beach, CA notched the game's first goal. Nineteen year-old Olympic hero, Tony Azevedo
(Stanford/Long Beach, CA,) followed with a neat powerplay goal, the first of three for the game. And when Olympian Sean Kern (UCLA '01/Honolulu, HI),
winner of the last two NCAA Player of the Year awards, scored, it looked like business as usual for the USA. USA 3 Canada 0.
Encouraged by more a capacity crowd of rabid fans, the Canadians slowly gained confidence and picked up a few goals. The first half ended with the USA up by two, 4-2. The teams played even in the third period, with the USA hanging on to 6-4 lead. But the momentum and tide was turning. The USA was playing tired and Canada hammered in three consecutive goals to start the fourth quarter, brining on deafening roars from the crowd and a 7-6 Canadian lead. Larry Felix, (Pepperdine '95, Fullerton) a last minute replacement for Spencer Dornin (CAL/Laguna Beach, CA) and playing in his first Sr. level international game, momentarily stopped the bleeding with a natural goal to knot the game at 7. However, on the next possession, Canada's Ted Bader scored what proved to be the game winner at 1:46. The USA had two powerplay opportunities after Bader's goal, but couldn't convert.
The loss was a major disappointment for Ratko Rudic, who was making his debut as the coach of the USA National Team. Rudic is the most successful
coach in water polo history, winning three Olympic gold medals and a bronze for Yugoslavia and Italy.
"Ratko hates to lose and I'm sure that he is very disappointed," said Barbara Kalbus, USA Water Polo National Team Leader. "But he wasn't upset.
He understands that the players have worked very hard the past month and are very fatigued. We were also playing with a group of young and very inexperienced players, many of whom made their first international appearance tonight. That's not to take anything away from the Canadians, they have improved and they played well tonight, but tomorrow is another day."
· Because of a series of flight cancellations it took 15 hours for the team to get to Calgary from Los Angeles. When they arrived, it was without
luggage or equipment. Many of the players packed their heavy jackets in suitcases and they had to do without them until just before game time.
· Lefthander Spencer Dornan, (CAL/Laguna Beach, CA) was diagnosed with "Failing Adaptation Syndrome" early this week and was replaced on the roster
by lefthander Larry Felix (Pepperdine '96/Fullerton, CA). Felix is a veteran club player with the Harvard Water Polo Foundation and Long Beach Shore
teams. Making his fist international Sr. appearance, Felix scored a natural goal to tie the game at seven, late in the fourth quarter.
· Genai Kerr (UCI '99/Irvine, CA) made his first start as National Team goalkeeper. Playing only the first half, Genai recorded 7 saves.
· Team captain Wolf Wigo (Stanford '95/NY, NY & San Francisco, CA) and 2meter man Ryan Flynn (CAL '98/Los Angeles, CA) had work commitments and missed last night's game. Wigo works as a market maker with Cole Roessler
Trading in San Francisco. Flynn works in sales for Oracle Corporation in Redwood Shores, CA. Both players arrived in Calgary after the game ended.
1 2 3 4 F
USA 1 3 2 2 8
CAN 0 2 2 5 9
USA: Azevedo 3, Kern 2, Bailey, Felix, Schumacher
CAN: Bader 2, Marks 2, Sabo 2, Lazeravic, Miller, Block
Saves: USA Kerr 7 (1st half), Brooks 2 (2nd half); CAN Thibeaux 6
Powerplay: USA 2/7, CAN 3/7
Other games: Saturday: 3:30 PM (MT) Sunday: 3:30 PM (MT)
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