Editor’s note: Lax All Stars is a proud sponsor of the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in Prague this year, and we’ve asked sports broadcaster Andy McNamara to help us cover the event. Andy is onsite commentating during the live webcasts, and he’ll be providing updates to LAS Readers over the next several days. Welcome Andy!
The round robin of the third 2011 FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championships (WILC) went pretty much as expected. The big three are in the same positions as in 2007, however, the host Czech Republic look much stronger and could make some noise when the playoff rounds begin Thursday. The qualifiers wrapped up Tuesday evening in Prague and a rowdy HC Slavia Praha Arena went home happy as the Czech’s advance to the quarter finals following a dominant outing over Ireland.
Below are the standings and records of the two groups as well as a summary on their tournament performance thus far. Keep tuned to WILCPrague2011.com for tournament information and to watch games live. Gold and bronze medal matches will take place this Saturday.
1. TEAM CANADA (3-0)
The Canadians faced no equal during their first three matches, outscoring group members 81-8 in what looks like possibly the most impressive Canuck squad to date. The two-time reigning WILC gold medalists’ motto for this third tournament instalment has been that they are not playing to defend, but playing to win.
Canada is made up of all-stars from across the National Lacrosse League and will not face a true challenge until they square off against either the United States or Iroquois. Until then they receive a bye to the semi-finals for winning their group and will rest up with two full days off. Captain Colin Doyle and forward Dan Dawson have looked unstoppable scoring 11 and 8 goals respectively; while goaltenders Anthony Cosmo and Matt Vince have been largely untested.
2. TEAM ENGLAND (2-1)
Head Coach Chris Hall of the NLL’s Washington Stealth came in with some big expectations for the ’03 and ’07 WILC fourth place finishers. Playing the first and third days of the event, England were clicking on offense and receiving stellar goaltending from Matt Roik and Paul Terry.
Manhandling Australia 20-8 and Slovakia 24-7, the Brits appeared ready to take on juggernaut Canada Tuesday evening. However, the largely inexperienced English defence were exposed badly and sharpshooters Tom Johnson (Stealth) and James Delaney were largely held in check. The result- a humbling 28-5 thrashing by the Canadians that send this club back to the drawing board to prepare for a quarter-final battle with the Czech Republic.
3. TEAM AUSTRALIA (1-2)
The Aussies arrived to Prague with the goal of improving on their 6th place 2007 result. Coming in with a veteran squad, average age 32, Australia looked sluggish against the much faster Canadian and English squads. The team from down under showed their country’s classic grit and determination, as they took valuable lessons away from the losses.
In what turned out to be a surprisingly competitive match-up against Slovakia, the club demonstrated an improvement in pass execution as well as defending the pick and roll. The outcome was a 12-7 victory and a berth into the quarter-finals versus the USA.
4. TEAM SLOVAKIA (0-3)
Being non-championship participants in this event and having only been involved with the indoor box game for about 7 years, Slovakia came to gain experience from the best lacrosse players in the world. Being humble and thankful for the opportunity they fell as expected to its pool members, but were able to utilize the loud fan support to make it a closer than expected contest against Australia.
Martin Kramar and Ondrej Greso showed future promise on the Slovak attack, while USIL Developmental goaltender, Patrick Crosby, gave a spectacular performance in-between the pipes. Being world title contenders may be several years away, but Slovakia is certainly on the right track. They take on Ireland for 7th and 8th spot when action resumes Thursday.
1. IROQUOIS NATIONALS (3-0)
Losing in overtime to Canada four years ago left the taste of silver in the Iroquois’ collective mouths and they are ready to do whatever it takes to make this year’s flavour gold. No surprise in that Iroquois blew past Ireland (23-3) and Czech Republic (25-5). However, the only road to win Group B went through the United States in the most anticipated encounter of the round robin.
The Iroquois edged out the Americans (more on that game below), showing the ability to bounce back after a slow start. NLL rookie phenom, Cody Jamieson, demonstrated his Olympian like speed by out hustling US defenders scoring 4 times and collecting 13 goals overall. With a talent pool second arguably only to Canada and a pair of world class net minders, the Iroquois next challenge is staying focused until their semi-final match on Friday.
2. TEAM USA (2-1)
The Americans were in control for the first three quarters of Monday’s main event rumble with Iroquois and never gave up the lead…until the fourth. Suspect officiating aside the US will be the first to admit that they controlled their own destiny and let arch rival Iroquois come back. Casey Powell’s hat trick showed one more time why he is one of the best in the business, but the inability for the defence/transition to stop Cody Jamieson proved to be the team’s undoing.
Away from that defeat USA had allowed only 4 goals over two matches combining a smothering defensive force with a mighty run and gun attack. The knock on these back-to-back bronze medalists is goaltending. The assumed to be rusty Erik Miller has not looked out of place and Jason Henhawk is growing into a superstar. However, will that be enough to grab a gold or silver away from the high calibre NLL experienced goalies from Canada and the Iroquois Nationals? Team USA prepare for the Australians in the quarter-finals Thursday.
3. TEAM CZECH REPUBLIC (1-2)
The adopted son of the Czech Republic, national head coach and NLL great Jim Veltman, has done a magnificent job in improving the Czech’s indoor lacrosse development over the past four years.
Although the host club are certainly not a powerhouse, they have been technically sound and possess an excellent work ethic, something Mr. Veltman certainly is credited for. “We could have played better, but every game is important and is another source of experience,” commented Czech Assistant Coach, Pavel Semerak. He also said, “we do not have bright individual stars like some of the other countries. Players know that only team effort will lead us to success.”
The atmosphere in the arena from local fans has been tremendous, with the beating of drums and loud chanting being heard throughout. “We can feel their support and it gives us extra energy. They are unbelievable and we would like to thank them,” added Semerak. Czech Republic welcomes the English on May 25 for the quarter-finals.
4. TEAM IRELAND (0-3)
Ireland came into this tournament with some unfortunate last minute injuries and had to face tough Group B competition in past medalists Iroquois and USA. Irish forward Joe Caulfield said that the Irish’s top players were its goaltenders and that certainly proved to be true as Geoff Rainsford and Mike Cregan stood tall in front of a relatively inexperienced defence.
Irish defender, Conor Walsh, plays in the Irish Lacrosse League, which just completed its second season. “This league will continue in the development of our national players and gives us a chance to play competitive matches on a more regular basis,” he said. Ireland let what appeared to be a winnable game versus the Czech Republic on day four of the WILC slip away, as a one goal first quarter deficit exploded into an eventual 18-5 defeat. The Irish will meet up with Slovakia to determine 7th and 8th place.
To watch all the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships live or on-demand, along with the schedule and all news stories stay tuned to the WILC website. The tournament organizers also thank Lacrosse All-Stars for being an official WILC partner sponsor.
Andy McNamara is a Toronto area sports broadcaster and writer. He is the Play-by-Play voice for the Toronto Rock on the National Lacrosse League Network and for the 2011 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @AndyMc8.
(All photos by Mr. Eduard Erben, CPA Czech Photo)