Jamaica’s senior ice hockey team won the LATAM Cup 2019 trophy on Sunday night in a hard-fought 2-0 victory over last year’s champions Colombia, creating history in a sport that is foreign to this tropical country. Jamaica, who went into the half-time break two goals ahead at Florida Panthers Ice Den in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, secured the victory on penalties after the game ended 2-2 and went into extra time without either team changing the scoreboard.
“For me, this says we can compete amongst the best of the associate members,” Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation Director Don Anderson told the Jamaica Observer yesterday after he returned home from the tournament.
Associate members, he explained, are countries that do not have an ice rink.
“The kind of game we played told me that we are ready for the next stage where, if we can get an ice rink in Jamaica, I believe we can move forward to try to qualify for the Olympics,” Anderson added.
Anderson, a veteran sports administrator, admitted that the tournament was very difficult for the team, even though they trounced each competitor.
He explained that while Jamaica beat Colombia 5-0 in the opening Group A fixture, neither team had scored in the first two of the game’s three 14-minute periods.
“Then, in the third period, all of a sudden they found their shooting sticks and scored five goals in seven minutes,” Anderson related.
“The rest of the games were pretty okay. The next match we played against Argentina, who were the runners-up to Colombia last year, and that was a safe match as we turned out comfortable winners 8-4.
“When we ran into Brazil on Saturday, we had felt comfortable because Argentina had beaten them 9-3 earlier in the morning. And so it was — we comfortably beat them 7-0,” Anderson reported.
That game sent Jamaica into the semi-finals which they won 7-0 against Mexico Sunday morning.
“The win against Mexico put us up against Colombia, who finished second overall. We said, with that 5-0 victory over them Friday, we figured we should win the final — but it was one of the most difficult games,” Anderson said.
“We led 2-0 by about the second half and we figured we should be okay. but they came back and scored two goals with two minutes to go in the final period so we had to go to extra time — and they really put us under a lot of pressure,” he added.
Anderson admitted that before the tournament started he didn’t expect Jamaica to get any further than the first two days. However, with each game his confidence grew.
“The standard of play was very good. The team played exceptionally well,” he said, noting that many of its members are young “but they played well against big men”.
Anderson praised the coach, Cyril Bollers, and his assistant Darwin Murray for doing an excellent job despite the fact they had very little time to work with the team before the tournament.
He also said that the support they received from Jamaicans in Fort Lauderdale and elsewhere was phenomenal.
“It was like at the Olympics when Bolt won the 100 metres. They played Jamaican music, they sang, and people from other countries started cheering for us, especially when it became obvious that we were heading to the final,” Anderson said.
“It was, overall, a fantastic experience and I have been to seven Olympic Games, which tells you the kind of experience I had at this tournament. The spirit of the team was fantastic, the discipline was superb, the standard of play excellent,” Anderson added.
He explained that the players, who all live overseas but have Jamaican heritage, play in the college system and in different leagues.
“What we did well was to pull them together into a nice unit that understood each other,” Anderson explained.
“It was an awesomely inspiring experience.”
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