U.S. Boys Beat Canadian Men in UANA Pan American Junior Water Polo Semifinal

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What happens when Americans and Canadians clash. Photo Courtesy: Peter Laurence / USA Water Polo

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

CLEARWATER, FL. In a game of contrasts between national rivals, the baby-faced boys from the U.S. put forth an inspired effort in beating their older counterparts from Canada in a UANA Pan American Junior Water Polo Championship semifinal Saturday at the Long Center. Breaking out to a three-goal lead at halftime that at one point swelled to six, the Yanks held on to beat the chippy Canucks by a final score of 12-9, tagging the visitors with their first loss of the tournament.

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The win, which puts Team USA (3-0-1) in the UANA gold medal game today against Brazil (3-0-1) at 4:40 p.m., was a measure of revenge for a 10-goal thrashing administered by the Canadians to the U.S. girls earlier in the day.

With an average age of 17, the American players are a full year and a half younger than their Canadian counterparts, more than half of whose roster was 19. None of the U.S. players had achieved that relatively advanced age, and six players—the core of the American cadet squad that last summer surprised host Serbia and Croatia by copping the Darko Cukic Cup—are 16.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter Laurence / USA Water Polo

Leading the way for Team USA with three goals was Tanner Pulice. Nick Tierney contributed two goals, none bigger than his power-play tip-in off a lovely helper from Pulice with less than three minutes to play, stifling a furious Canadian rally that whitted a 10-4 U.S. lead to 11-9 with four minutes remaining.

Jeremie Cote registered a hat-trick for Head Coach Brian Parillo’s squad, including a sneaky side-arm shot with his team enjoying the man advantage that was part of the Canadians’ rally. Reuel D’Souza also tallied three times for Canada, but was also at the center of a couple of undiplomatic skirmishes between two teams that not only share a border but in 2019 will be fighting each other to qualify for a berth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Much to the delight of a partisan crowd, Pulice open the scoring a minute into the match when he beat Canadian netminder Andrei Velasevic. After D’Souza tied it with a side-arm blast that got behind U.S. goalie Kent Emden, Tierney gave the Americans a lead they would not relinquish, feathering a lob shot over Velasevic. Ethan Parish then handcuffed the Canadian goalie with a knuckling shot that found the back of the net before Cote scored on a wicked blast from five meters that Emden had no chance on.

A five-meter penalty against Canada was converted by Makoto Kenny, and when Pulice connected with seven seconds remaining in the first period, the crowd erupted in chants of “U-S-A.” The Yanks kept the pressure on as Ian Minsterman and Pulice scored to balance out a goal by Cote and a power-play score by Alexander Laroche nine seconds before halftime.

A three-goal burst by Jackson Painter, Kenney and Pulice to open the third period put the U.S. up by 10-4, but then Canada rallied. D’Souza converted on a five-meter penalty, Bogdan Djerkovic powered inside of the American defense to score with 35 seconds remaining and when D’Souza converted a tip in front, the pro-USA crowd became very quiet.

A minute into the fourth period, Garrett Zaan calmed the collective nerves of the U.S. fans with a score in front of the Canadian cage, but goals by Cotie and Stefan Dabic again cut the host’s lead to two before Tierney closed out the scoring.

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USA’s Kent Emden. Photo Courtesy: Peter Laurence / USA Water Polo

There were more theatrics in store, as Emden guessed right in stopping Cote on a 5-meter penalty at the two minute mark, snuffing out the Canadian’s last gasp and punching Team USA’s ticket to today’s final against Brazil, a do-over of a 10-all draw between the two teams in their opening match of the tournament.

That match will be streamed live on will be streamed live on Facebook (Facebook.com/USAWP) and YouTube(YouTube.com/USAWP).

2 comments

    • avatar
      Michael Randazzo

      Hi:

      Is your “+1” a nod to the age difference between the US / Canadian junior boys (or men… when you’re sporting a full beard, as some of the Canadians are, it’s challenging to say “boy”). Or, perhaps you meant “+2” – which is the age difference between the U.S. girls (and yes, they are girls) and the Canadians, a couple of whom are in college.

      Still, it’s GREAT to have this competition on U.S. soil – and even better to be able to cover it!

      Your correspondent