T-Birds players leading Canada in tour of New Zealand


VANCOUVER – UBC Thunderbirds athletes and alumni make up a majority of the Canadian Men’s National Team squad that is currently in New Zealand to train and prepare for the upcoming year of competition.
Four of the 22 athletes named to the tour roster are current UBC Thunderbirds players, while another nine are graduates of the varsity program.
“It’s wonderful to see so many UBC current student-athletes and alumni in the team for this training and competition tour to New Zealand,” said UBC head coach Shiaz Virjee. “It speaks to the passion and commitment that the UBC Men’s Field Hockey athletes have for the sport and our development program at UBC.”
The four T-Birds are: midfielder Balraj Panesar (Surrey, B.C.), forward Matthew Sarmento (Vancouver), midfielder Oliver Scholfield (Jersey, United Kingdom) and defender Paul Wharton (Vancouver).
The nine UBC alumni are: goalkeeper David Carter (Vancouver), midfielder Taylor Curran (North Vancouver), defender Gordon Johnston (Vancouver), goalkeeper Antoni Kindler (Vancouver), defender Ben Martin (Vancouver), midfielder Mark Pearson (Delta), midfielder John Smythe (Vancouver), midfielder Hudson Stewart (Vancouver) and defender Scott Tupper (Vancouver), who will also serve as the team’s captain.
The New Zealand tour is part of the preparations for the 2015 competition schedule, which includes two major events: the 2014–15 Men’s FIH Hockey World League Round 2 and the Pan American Games, which will serve as the qualifier for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Canada has seven test matches scheduled in New Zealand. Four will be against New Zealand national field hockey team, the world’s sixth-ranked team known as the Black Sticks Men. The squads will face off Dec. 8 and 9 at 9:30 p.m. PT in Nelson and then again on Dec. 12 and 13 at 6 p.m. PT in Christchurch.
Canada has already played three games against a New Zealand ‘A’ outfit, which is comprised of both top squad and development players, going 1-1-1.