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HIGH ACHIEVERS WEEKEND WRAP: Annabelle Chukwu scores twice in extra time, sends Canada to FIFA U20 World Cup


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By Martin Cleary

At the start of the all-important CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Soccer Championship bronze-medal game, striker Annabelle Chukwu was one of four players, including two goalkeepers, sitting on the bench.

Canada needed to win this critical third-place game in Estadio Olimpico Felix Sanchez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to secure CONCACAF’s third and final berth in the expanded, 24-team 2024 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup.

But when the final whistle sounded, Chukwu was the history-making, heroine of the game as Canada rallied in the second half and escaped with a 5-3 extra-time victory over Costa Rica, which led 3-2 at halftime.

Canada will make its ninth appearance in the FIFA Women’s U20 World Cup.

Chukwu entered the game at the start of the second half to replace Renee Watson and had nothing but offence on her mind.


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At the 73rd-minute, her right-footed shot hit the Costa Rica goal post, which prevented a tie. But two minutes later, Canadian teammate Olivia Smith scored the only goal of the second half to force a 30-minute extra-time session.

In the overtime, Chukwu was at her best as she scored the eventual game-winning goal at the 101st-minute and added an important insurance marker at 120th+1. Both of the Ottawa South United Soccer Club product’s goals were set up by Ella Ottey.

Ottey and Florianne Jourde, who was the performance player of the match, scored Canada’s goals in the first half.

Chukwu became the first Canadian women’s youth player to score a FIFA qualification winner in extra time. The win also saw the Canadian U20 squad become the first national youth team to score a qualification match winner in extra time and the first to qualify after trailing in their critical match.

Smith and Chukwu sparked the Canadian offence during the CONCACAF tournament, scoring four goals each, which accounted for half of the country’s output.

Ottawa’s Rosa Maalouf played the first 47 minutes for Canada before being replaced by Kayla Briggs.

Canada played five matches (3-2) in 10 days, defeating Jamaica 4-0 and Panama 5-0 before losing to the United States 5-2 in the preliminary round. Mexico scored in the 92nd minute for a 2-1 semi-final decision over Canada and edged the U.S. 2-1 for the gold medal.

CHL NAMES 67’S DAVE CAMERON COACH OF THE YEAR

Ottawa 67’s coach Dave Cameron, a former bench boss and assistant with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators for five years, was named the Canadian Hockey League’s top junior coach for 2022-23 and winner of the Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award.

Cameron was the OHL coach of the year and was nominated for the national award along with Brennan Sonne of the Saskatoon Blades and Stephane Julien of the Sherbrooke Phoenix.

The third 67’s coach to win the national major junior hockey award, Cameron follows in the footsteps of Andre Tourigny, 2019-20, and Brian Kilrea, 1996-97.

As the second-year coach of the 67’s, Cameron played an instrumental role in the club earning a franchise-record 107 points in the Ontario Hockey League, which was based on its regular-season mark of 51-12-3-2. That record gave the 67’s the Hamilton Spectator Trophy as the OHL’s top regular-season team.

Defence was an important part of Ottawa success as the 67’s allowed a CHL-low 171 goals this season and had the second-best penalty kill in the league at 84.1 per cent.

“Killer (Kilrea) probably cost himself NHL games with the role he played in creating the players’ union, but there’s no more ultimate team gesture you can make than to sacrifice your career,” Cameron said in a press release.

“For me to win an award, knowing that this is what he stands for, is an honour.”

67’s general manager James Boyd was proud of Cameron’s performance as coach.

“Dave’s energy, enthusiasm and ability to teach the game were key factors in our team success this season. I cannot say enough about his dedication to our players and staff,” he said.

Kamloops Blazers’ Olen Zellweger was selected the CHL defenceman of the year ahead of local players Pavel Mintyukov of the 67’s and Tristan Luneau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Gatineau Olympiques.

Regina Pats forward Connor Bedard made CHL history by winning the top prospect award, the trophy as the top scorer and the player of the year award in the same year.

DEREK GEE SPRINTS TO 10TH IN BRUSSELS CYCLING CLASSIC

So what does a cyclist do a week after finishing the body-punishing, but uplifting three-week Giro d’Italia stage race?

Well, get back on his bike and go to the start line to see if he has recovered.

Apparently, Israel-Premier Tech’s Derek Gee of Osgoode, ON., has rebounded well from the Giro, which saw him burst into fame with four second-place and two fourth-place results as well as finishing second overall in the points and mountain classifications.

The 207-kilometre Brussels Cycling Classic came down to a 17-rider sprint for the finish and Gee, who attacked over the last two kilometres, crossed the finish line in 10th-place in four hours, 51 minutes, 50 seconds. Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ won the race.

Israel-Premier Tech had two riders in the top 10 as Tom van Asbroeck was eighth.

“Coming off the Giro, I was looking forward to seeing how my legs would be,” said Gee, whose entry into his first Grand Tour event had a lot to do with teammate Michael Woods of Ottawa encouraging the team to place Gee on the Giro roster.

“I’m really happy with how I felt in the race and the team was super active so it was an awesome atmosphere to step into. We were hoping for a little more in the final, but I think we can be happy with what the result shows for the coming races.”

Gee will be returning home later this month and may be at the finish line for the June 18 Bike Race Ottawa on Preston Street during the final day of Italian Week. He captured the race a few years ago and won his weight in beer.

He also will attend the Canadian road cycling championships June 23-26 in Edmonton and hopes to come away with the distinctive national team champion’s jersey to wear in future international races.

OFSAA RUGBY WINS FOR GLEBE, NEPEAN, CAIRINE WILSON

Ottawa high school teams were undefeated after the opening day Monday of the OFSAA girls’ rugby championships, but the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association representatives in field lacrosse couldn’t muster a win.

Glebe rolled to a 43-5 victory over Sacred Heart of Newmarket, while Nepean turned back Eden of St. Catharines 22-15 during the girls’ AAA draw in Bolton.

In Belleville, Cairine Wilson won its opening A/AA-division game by a 22-0 count over La Salle of Kingston.

At the OFSAA field lacrosse championships in Peterborough, Sacred Heart was defeated by Brooklin of Whitby and Thomas A. Stewart of Peterborough by identical 14-7 scores in AAA action. St. Mark dropped its first two A/AA games 11-5 to Crestwood of Peterborough and St. Mary of Owen Sound 10-5.

OTTAWA PAIR KICK OFF VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE CAMPAIGN WITH TEAM CANADA

Ottawa’s Vicky Savard and Shaïnah Joseph finished their season-opening Volleyball Nations League series on a high note, with straight-set and five-set victories to match a pair of earlier defeats by the same margin.

Playing in Turkey, Canada dropped its opener to Poland by the minimum 13-15 in the final set and then got swept by Thailand before rebounding for a dominant sweep of Korea and a narrow 15-12 win in the fifth set over Serbia.

Team Canada has an all-Ottawa right side with the Savard-Joseph tandem for the VNL campaign. Savard scored seven points against Poland, while Joseph had three in the Korea contest and seven against Serbia.

Canada sits ninth out of the 16 teams after the first four of 12 preliminary-round games in VNL, which continues June 13-17 in Hong Kong and June 27-July 1 in Thailand. The top-eight will advance to the playoff round in Arlington, Texas.

Savard made her national team debut last summer at age 29 and then helped the team to its best-ever finish at the World Championships (10th), while 28-year-old Joseph returned to the squad after a break from national team duty last summer.

LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST

· Olympian Amy Millar of Perth aboard Truman posted a well ridden, error-free first round and a four-fault effort in the second round to help Canada place second overall at the $400,000 Longines Jumping Nations Cup in Langley, B.C. The North American League series ended without Canada advancing to the Nations Cup Final Sept. 28 to Oct. 1 in Barcelona as the United States and Mexico secured the top two spots.

· For the third time in a row, Canada had to settle for the silver medal at the world para ice hockey championships in Moose Jaw, SK. Canada lost 6-1 to the United States, which captured its third consecutive gold medal. After defeating Korea 15-1 and Czech Republic 2-1 before losing to the U.S. 3-0 in the preliminary round, Canada shut out Czech Republic 5-0 in the semifinals. The Canadian roster included forward Anton Jacobs-Webb of Gatineau (two assists) and defencemen Tyrone Henry of Ottawa (one assist) and Ottawa resident Rob Armstrong (one assist).

· Forward Godson Okokoh of Ottawa is the youngest player on the Canadian boys’ youth team at 14, but he proved he fits right in during the opening game of the FIBA Americas U16 basketball championship in Yucatan, Mexico. Okokoh, who attends Royal Crown Academic School in Toronto, was one of the most effective players for Canada, playing 26 minutes and 13 seconds, scoring eight points, collecting nine rebounds and adding two assists, one steal and one block. Okokoh’s sister Rachael, who attended Louis-Riel high school before transferring to Royal Crown this year, is on the Canadian training camp roster for the FIBA Americas women’s U16 championship June 13-19 in Yucatan.

· 2021 Olympic silver medallist Japan defeated Canada 80-60 in the Rim-to-Rim women’s senior exhibition basketball game in Victoria. Cassandre Prosper, a graduate of the Capital Courts Academy who joined the University of Notre Dame earlier this year, scored 12 points and added five rebounds and three steals. Louisville University’s Merissah Russell, who also attended Capital Courts, also was on the Canadian roster.

· Romi Dilawri of Ottawa tied for 34th in the final round of qualifying for this week’s RBC Canadian Open golf championship. He shot an even par 72, but only the top four players advanced to the Open. Former Manotick golfer Brad Fritsch shot two-over 74 and amateur Mark Mackay of Rideau View carded at seven-over 79.

· The Tartan Ottawa International Marathon turns 50 in 2024. Until June 16, runners can register for the milestone race for only $50. This year’s registration fees ranged between $110 and $150 for the 42.195-kilometre race.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.

Martin can be reached by e-mail at martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.


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