The two teams that faced off to start the tournament just a week ago were meeting again with a trip to the gold medal game on the line.
The US squad was without Casey Powell the first time around, which gave them ability to do completely different things on offense today. With much more at stake, and a full week of practice and game time under their belts, it was going to be interesting to see how these two teams would match up.
The game started by the Iroquois gaining the first possession. They took a few shots on US goalie David Mather, recovering the loose ball each time. The US took advantage of the first time they touched the ball by setting up a Joe Walters goal at the 90 second mark, assisted by Kevin Buchanan.
91 seconds later, Walters would score again, with another helper from Buchanan. A quick 2-0 lead is really what the US wanted going into this game. It wasn’t until just after the five-minute mark that Jeff Shattler fed Brett Bucktooth for a spectacular goal right in the middle of the defense. It was a great scoring opportunity for Bucktooth who has primarily been a defender all week despite being an All-Star forward in the NLL.
Less than 30 seconds later, Lyle Thompson scored off another Shattler feed before Randy Staats and Craig Point pitched in two more at the halfway point of the quarter. Point then closed out the quarter with a power play goal from the righty shooter position to make the score 5-2.
The second quarter started out fast including a play that would have instantly gone onto the highlight real. Tyler Garrison lost his feet as he crossed the midline and was able to avoid a few US checks before he fed Randy Staats while still on the ground.
Mather made a great save on Staats which took some of the Iroquois steam away. It wasn’t long after though that Staats would take a feed from Johnny Powless and come around the crease from behind to put one past Mather. Miles Thompson then followed up with a goal right over a defender’s shoulder and Powless picked up a short hand goal, scoring one-handed with a defender draped all over him to make it 8-2.
The US would answer back with two goals in two minutes from Walters and Joe Resetarits to bring them back within four. The Iroquois Nationals then reeled off three goals (Powless, Adam Bomberry, and Roger Vyse) in the final two minutes and eight seconds. It changed the game from a manageable deficit for the US to one where no possession could be wasted.
Jake Henhawk would go in net for the US to start the second half. Something in the back of everyone’s minds was how a week ago in their first matchup, the US shut out the Iroquois coming out at half. That was reiterated as the Americans scored two quick goals to start the third.
Garrett Thul took a Casey Powell pass and dove through the crease for a score. Only a minute later, Joel White scored a goal that was nothing but pure effort. Showing how he collects so many loose balls in the NLL, White won an all-out foot race to a ball rolling along the boards near the sub boxes. He was able to pick up the ball and get out of the area before the Iroquois could get a defender near him, even though they had the shorter side of the field.
Miles Thompson would go on to score two more quick goals, including one on the man-up. These were then followed by another from Randy Staats before Miles would record his third quarter hat trick. Joe Walters responded by cranking a shot from the outside that hit Goodleaf, but got through anyway. Making a bad quarter worse, the US also lost Henhawk only ten minutes into the half to injury. The quarter would end with a 15-7 Iroquois lead.
Things really dialed back in the fourth quarter. While the Americans continued to play their way until the last whistle, the Iroquois were more than happy to milk the clock and use long possessions to seal the win. Lyle and Haina Thompson would score in the first and last-minute of the quarter, with three US goals between those (Resetarits, Powell, and Buchanan).
The Iroquois 17-10 win moved them into Sunday’s gold medal game while the US will face a surprising Israel squad for bronze.
Fuel for Thought
The US will need to have some solid goalie play when facing Israel. One thing that Israel has shown through this tournament is their spectacular shooting ability and fast play.
While the US had their sights on their gold medal game, they absolutely will not want to miss out on third place. Expect a US team that will show up and fight hard from start to finish.
For the Iroquois, they have gone through some fine tuning this week and should play Canada very close for gold. The hardest thing for the Iroquois may be to keep their emotions in check. After nearly every game, the players are asked about the significance of playing these games as the host nation, in the area where lacrosse was born.
Their game plan today should work well against Canada. They used their lefties to setup the other side (Powless and Shattler alone combined for 11 assists, but just two goals), which makes the goalie move laterally and hopefully not get reset before a shot can be fired. Executing plays like this will be vitally important for the Iroquois to bring home gold.
The two games on Sunday are going to be fast, physical, and great to watch. Mark them down and make sure you tune in or go in person, because lacrosse like this won’t happen again for another four years!