It’s a common saying in sports that great offense beats great defense. Dillon Ward proved that wrong Monday.
The Canadian goalie posted 24 saves and an 83 percent save percentage in his team’s battle, including 12 in the first quarter, against the Iroquois Nationals on ESPN Field. Ward’s heroics were the difference in the game according to both head coaches in Canada’s 10-5 victory.
“They have phenomenal players,” said Canada head coach Randy Mearns of the Iroquois. “They have a lot of firepower, and they were peppering it. If it’s not for Dillon Ward, I think we’re the other way.”
Iroquois head coach Red Burnam agreed. It’s strange to see a roster like the Iroquois’s held to only five goals, but it’s abnormal to see a goalie post two dozen saves, too.
“It’s weird to see any goalie make that many saves, especially against us,” Burnam said. “I think that’s a whole different game if that goalie doesn’t play like that today. You know it, and I know it: that was the difference.”
Ward played off his role in Canada’s win, though, giving plenty of praise to the defense in front of him. Even during the broadcast, you could overhear announces using the phrase “standing on his head” in Hebrew and English.
“I think I played my best of the tournament so far, and hopefully I can continue to grow on that,” Ward said. “I have to give a lot of credit to my defense. They’re forcing them to take a lot of low-angle shots. They obviously took a high volume of shots, but I don’t think a ton of them were from peak scoring positions. My defense gave me a great opportunity to succeed today.
Ward’s performance comes off the back of a good showing Sunday in the 11-10 thriller against USA, a fantastic sign for Canada on its quest for its first back-to-back World Championships gold. It’s not unlikely the Iroquois will see Canada again later this week, and this time around, the team will hope the opposing goalie isn’t in the same zone.
“We’ll probably play the same way, it’s just a matter of not catching a goalie that’s so hot,” Burnam said of adjustments for a potential rematch. “I think we played pretty well to hold Canada to 10 goals. We did our job defensively. To hold that team to 10 goals, it is what it is. Didn’t they score 10 goals last night against the U.S.? We just didn’t finish offensively.”
The Iroquois Nationals will play Scotland in its final pool play game Tuesday at 6:45 p.m. on Epoch Field. Canada will finish its group stage versus Australia on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN Field.