The Akim Toussaint-led T&T senior men's hockey squad will go into their opening Pool B match of the Pan American Cup against the USA as heavy underdogs at the Prince of Wales Country Club in Las Reina, Santiago, Chile from 1 pm on Thursday.
The Darren Cowie-coached “Calypso Stickmen” ranked 37th in the world will face the 24th-ranked Americans in the second of four matches on schedule today as they begin their quest to be among the two qualifiers from the eight-team competition to the 2023 FIH Odisha World Cup in India.
However, preparations for the tournament by Cowie and his players have not gone according to plan, putting the team at a disadvantage going into their opener with the USA, who were 3-0 victors the last time both teams faced off in the 2017 edition third-placed playoff in Lancaster, USA.
Due to the late release of funding by the Ministry of Sports on Friday last, the T&T Hockey Board were late in finalising travelling arrangements and flights for the team with some members leaving on Sunday, then Monday via Panama City and Miami respectively.
However, while the players who travelled via Panama arrived on schedule, the contingent of players who left for the tournament via Miami was delayed for 24 hours in the USA and only arrived in Chile on Tuesday night, with the final group touching down on Wednesday morning in South America.
Contacted for comment, Cowie said that despite all the hiccups faced the team was able to get some good news with all the players who arrived on Tuesday night returning negative PCR test results allowing them to join the team immediately.
He added,” Hopefully the group that just landed (Wednesday morning) will get their results later today and will be able to join us for our only training session which is carded for 9 pm tonight (last night).
He added, “So hopefully the players get cleared in time and can join the session, but we know for certain that assistant coach Dwain Quan Chan probably won’t get cleared in time due to his late arrival.
“That’s why we tried to plan to try and get here a week before to try and gauge all those kinds of different things and unplanned circumstances that can pop up.”
“So I guess the fact that we weren’t able to get out of Trinidad in time has caused all these delays and put us on the back foot more than we would have liked.
Despite the problems faced, Cowie said he was still happy with the bunch of players at his disposal as they have been resilient.
“The seven guys who arrived in Chile on the weekend were still able to have some training sessions led by one of the senior players Lyndon Byer and going into the opener the guys still have their heads on and are focused on competing.
“It’s going to be difficult for us but I’m really happy with their mindset as they are focused on the task at hand, ended Cowie.
The 18-man squad was forced into one late change before leaving T&T with Fatima’s Roshane Hamilton being added to after Jovan Wren of Malvern SC returned a positive PCR test on the week.
The “Calypso Stickmen” will also face Mexico on January 22, and Canada, two days later both from 10.45 am to close out round-robin play.
Three-time winners Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru comprise Pool A of the competition which is the region's qualifier to the 16-team World Cup.
At the end of round-robin play, the top two teams in each pool will advance to the main draw semifinals on January 26, while the second and third-placed teams will meet in cross-over quarterfinals to determine the other semifinal qualifiers.
The two semifinal winners will then secure the two Pan American spots to the 16-team World Cup.
Akim Toussaint (c), Andrey Rocke (GK), Malcolm Baptiste (GK), Aidan De Gannes, Lyndell Byer, Jordan Reynos, Mickell Pierre, Jordan Vieira, Tariq Marcano, Teague Marcano, Shaquille Daniel, Joel Daniel, Ghardel Elcock, Ethan Reynos, Caleb Guissepi, Roshane Hamilton, Daniel Byer, Tarell Singh.
Travelling Reserves: Shawn Phillip, Jacques Poon-Lewis (GK)
Canada vs Mexico, 10.45 am
USA vs T&T, 1 pm
Argentina vs Brazil, 3.15 pm
Chile vs Peru, 5.30 pm