Canada wins again! By defeating the Iroquois Nationals, 12-8 on Sunday, September 27th in Syracuse’s Carrier Dome, the Canadians claimed their fourth straight WILC title, and third straight FIL title in a little over one calendar year. It certainly seems like a golden age for Canadian Lacrosse on the international stage right now.
Team Canada used a potent, motion-heavy offense to generate good chances all game long. The Nationals fought hard, and were in the game for much of the contest, displaying incredible skill and team play. Both teams played clean, hard, beautiful lacrosse, and if there was ever a display of box lacrosse that rivaled that game, I’d love to see it. The Dome was packed, the fans were into the game from start to finish, and the excitement in the air was palpable.
Canada Wins WILC 2015
Less than a minute into the game, Curtis Dickson scored to put Canada up early, and after that goal, the game changed in a noticeable way. The seal had been broken, and players seemed to loosen up immediately on both teams. Of course that included the goalies and the defenders as well, and no more goals were scored until the Iroquois put in two goals 28 seconds apart, starting at 8:30 into the game.
Before Johnny Powless and Haina Thompson scored their goals, both teams had some good chances and possessions. The crowd cheered for long, shot-filled possessions, and oohs and ahs came from diving attempts on goal. Everyone in attendance was glued to the action, as the pace was furious but determined.
Shawn Evans put in an unassisted scorcher on the power play to tie the game back up for Canada 42 seconds later, and you it became evident how perfect a shot would have to be to find the back of the net. Both goalies were stellar, and the Iroquois defense scooped up tons of loose balls, while the Canadians knocked down shot attempts as well as any team I’ve seen. This trend of knocking down shots continued throughout the game.
With two and half minutes left in the quarter, the Iroquois retook the lead off a power play goal from Miles Thompson. Randy Staats moved the ball to Johnny Powless who found Thompson, and the Nationals were again in the lead. Dickson got his second of the game off a Mark Matthews pass with about a minute and a half left in the quarter. A delayed penalty allowed Canada to pull their goalie and bring out an extra attacker, and all those weapons added up to the goal that would tie the game back up at 3.
Canada came out hot in the second and made it 4-3 when Dan Dawson scored off of a transition pass from Kyle Rubisch. They extended their lead less than a minute later when Zack Greer scored on a power play pass from Evans. The Iroquois power play answered back about 6 minutes into the second quarter off of Jeff Shattler‘s stick, and it was a 5-4 game. The decidedly pro-Iroquois crowd was cheering heavily at this point.
The seesaw of emotion continued, as less than a minute later, Dhane Smith put Canada up by 2 goals again. With the Iroquois’ Randy Staats scoring a goal to make it 6-5 only 35 seconds later, even the most jaded fans began to cheer and creep towards the edge of their seats.
Believers saw box lacrosse Valhalla on Earth, recent converts were discovering their faith. Conversation continued amongst fans, but no eye contact was made. I sat high in the stands sweating from the rising heat of 10,000 people, dizzy from the rapid climb, and saw the game play out. The people in this giant dome were glued to the action.
When the second half commenced, Canada really showed their strength, as well as their depth. Wave after wave of large and agile Canadian runners took to the floor and their pursuit of loose balls was downright dogmatic. It was a contrast of style compared to the Iroquois almost intrinsic knowledge of how the ball bounces. Physical but clean play added to the highlight of skill that was witnessed from both teams.
All three goals in the third quarter came on power play chances, and after 15 minutes, Canada would emerge with an 8-6 lead. Dan Dawson scored first, around 4 minutes in, and Canada went up three Curtis Dickson put away his third of the night after a Mark Matthews feed. With four minutes left, Shattler added another for the Nationals, and the margin was back to two.
A two goal lead in box can be tenuous, but Canada had put forward a methodical and coordinated game plan, and their overall ability made a comeback a daunting task. The Iroquois showed no signs of quit and within a minute of the 4th quarter starting, Lyle Thompson scored a beautiful goal off a roll from pressure, and the Dome erupted in noise.
The hopeful mood of the crowd was dampened when Steve Priolo notched a big unassisted goal to make it 9-7 with just under 11 minutes left in the game. Stephan LeBlanc‘s tally less than a minute later pushed the lead to 3 goals, and more frantic pace took over the game. It was Mark Matthews fourth assist of the contest.
With about 5 and a half minutes left, Randall Staats pulled the Iroquois back within 2 on the power play, but Canada’s Shawn Evans, who earned WILC MVP honors put the game further away when he scored to put Team Canada up 11-8. Evans was dynamic all game long, played his heart out and was very deserving of the award. Dickson’s fourth goal of the game came on an empty net when the Iroquois had an extra attacker on the floor. Matt Vinc got the second assist, and after stopping 19 shots in the 4th quarter alone, it must have felt nice to put up a point himself. The final was set at 12-8 for Canada.
Canadian families flooded the floor, the all-world team was announced, and supposedly Langley, BC, was announced as the 2019 bid winner, but I never actually heard that myself. I only heard that other people heard it. It was loud. Oren Lyons presented a belt to Stan Cockerton of Canada Lacrosse, and this was more than just a gesture.
He called the Canadian lacrosse players their brothers, and while I didn’t hear everything that was said, I was glad to hear this. Through the chaos of the win and ceremony, a bond was made and kept, through lacrosse.
The spirit of the game was on display at the Gold Medal game at the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. It was alive in the players and the games at the tournament on the whole. The grace of the hosts, the skill of the players, the play of the teams, the referees, fans, families, and event staff… the list truly goes on forever of who made this event great.
It was not one group, or one person, but a great community, and a lacrosse community at that. It’s an honor to say I could be a small part of it.
Photo Credit: Jeff Melnik / LaxAllStars.com