CANADA EDGES UNITED STATES 10-9

    MANCHESTER, England _ Co-captain Brodie Merrill gave his teammates a reality check after their big win Saturday night.
     Defeating the United States 10-9 at the world field lacrosse championships was an impressive accomplishment but, hey, it’s only the first round.
     “Our objective was not to win the round robin but to win the gold medal,’’ said attacker Rhys Duch. “Brodie said it right in the post-game huddle _ that we’ve got to recognize that we just beat a good team but we’ve got to keep getting better and make sure we’re in the final game.’’
     Next up for Canada (2-0) is Australia (1-1) at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday.
     Duch and John Grant scored three goals each and Corey Small, Billy Dee Smith, Kevin Crowley and Garrett Billings added one each.
      “Anything you can do to help the team win, right?’’ said Duch, who was aching to get in on the scoring action after going without a goal in two pre-tournament exhibition games. “I hurt my ankle in the Friday game (17-4 over Japan) so I decided to find my shot in this one.
     “I was looking for opportune spots and the guys were finding me so I was putting it away for them.’’
     Grant put on quite a show in scoring the most amazing goals of the game. He put Canada up 4-3 early in the second quarter by shooting over his shoulder with his back to the net, and he gave Canada a 9-7 lead in the fourth by fending off a checker with one arm and flinging in a one-handed, underhand shot. He took a heap of punishment in the process, including the late minutes when his lengthy possessions helped eat up crucial time.
     “We executed some of the things that the coaching staff has had us working on all week,” he said afterwards. “When we were doing that, we were playing well.
     “When we started getting away from what we’ve been working on, I thought we looked average. We definitely have to keep up the positives and keep down the negatives. But, all in all, it’s a step in the right direction.”
     He had to laugh about the one-hander.
     “I got lucky,” he said. “I shouldn’t have shot it but sometimes you get lucky and it was a good time for it.”
      Coach Dave Huntley singled out faceoff specialist Geoff Snider for a job well done.
     “I’m sure we’re going to see the Americans again (in the medal round),” said Huntley. “I was really pleased with the way we played this one.
     “We took great care with the ball and played great defence. We gave (goaltender) Chris Sanderson a lot of balls he could see and he stopped most of them. Can’t ask for anything more. And Geoff Snider was really terrific on the faceoffs.”
     Of the 20 faceoffs, each team gained possession 10 times. The Smith versus Alex Smith draws were a game within the game.    
     “He’s very, very talented at what he does,’’ Snider said of Smith. “He’s certainly formidable as an opponent.
     “Alex is a nice kid and a good athlete and a great faceoff man. It’s an honour to be out here competing on the world stage against an athlete like that.’’
     There was no jump-for-joy celebration over the one-goal win.
     “International lacrosse is a chess match and sometimes it boils down to who makes the fewest mistakes or who capitalizes on opportunities,’’ Snider said. `This game was about feeling each other out.
     “I anticipate that in the medal round it will be even more intense. They are incredibly talented and a focused group of guys. We’ve got to be prepared for them or we’re not going to be successful. We’re going to go back and go over scouting reports, just as they will. I’m really looking forward to seeing those guys again. This isn’t going to be an easy road.’’
     Mike Leveille and Drew Westervelt scored two goals each for the United States and Paul Rabil, Kyle Sweeney, Matt Striebel, Matt Zash, Kevin Cassese and Brendan Mundorf got one each.
     The Americans led 3-2 after one quarter.
     Smith supplied the turning point when he intercepted a pass in his own end, ran the length of the field shedding checkers on his gallop, and blasted a bouncer past goaltender Brian Dougherty to tie it. Goals by Grant _ the over-the-shoulder gem _ and Duch then put Canada up 5-3 by halftime.
     Sanderson made two huge stick saves early in the third quarter off Leveille and Westervelt but it was all even at 6-6 to start the fourth.
     “We were a man down there,’’ said Sanderson. “Obviously that could be a huge swing in the game.
     “You kind of lock in and do what you can to make the save. Tonight we got it.’’
     Crowley burst down the middle and bounced one in while being clubbed and Billings took a Grant pass to sneak out from the side and bounce in a sidearm shot for an 8-6 lead. The teams traded goals the rest of the way. Canada held the lead.    

Neil Stevens, Team Canada media contact

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