MANCHESTER, England _ Team Canada defenceman Brodie Merrill is satisfied with his team’s start at the world field lacrosse championship.
    Yup, concluding the round-robin 5-0 after a 17-6 win over England on Tuesday certainly stokes the team’s enthusiasm.

     “We’re pretty happy with the start,’’ says Merrill. “We’re pleased to have gone through the round robin undefeated, but it’s just a start.
     “Our objective throughout this whole thing was to get better every game and I think we’ve done that so now our focus shifts to getting ready for the semifinals. We’ve got a nice day off Wednesday to rest and recharge.’’
     Canada in all likelihood would have put more than 20 balls into England’s net had it not been for a third-quarter downpour that slowed the action.
     John Grant, Dan Dawson, Zack Greer, Kevin Huntley, Corey Small and Shawn Williams scored two goals each and Garrett Billings, Kevin Crowley, Rhys Duch, Jordan Hall and Brodie Merrill added one each against England, and Chris Sanderson got the goaltending win.
     “We’re here to win the gold medal,’’ said Grant. “These games are just for working on our systems and perfecting things.’’
      The inevitable showdown with the United States looms in the Saturday final. As it now stands, coach Dave Huntley’s team might wind up playing Japan in the Thursday semifinals but won’t know for sure until after play-in games Wednesday that give lower-bracket squads a longshot chance to move up.
     Huntley wasn’t going to gripe about sloppy play against the Brits during the downpour given his team’s undefeated record.
    “We played like a team that had its fifth game in five days,’’ said coach Huntley. “We did some good things but weren’t as sharp mentally as we’ll need to be the next two games.
     “We’ll take a day off to recharge our batteries.’’
     It was 5-2 after one quarter, 11-3 at halftime, and then the skies opened. Each team scored twice in the third and, after the rain stopped, Canada increased its lead in the fourth quarter.
     “We played well at times,’’ said Greer. “They tried to slow the game down and sometimes it’s tough to keep your composure knowing you’re up so many goals and they’re kind of killing the clock, but I think we stayed focused.’’
     Lewis Ratcliff and Mark Reynolds scored two goals each for England and Adrian Bennett and Evan Roberts got one each.
     “It was 17-6, you know, the better team won, obviously,’’ said Ratcliff, the Victoria resident and Washington Stealth NLL teammate of Duch. “We played well at times but we’re not consistent enough and they’re a good squad. I wish them the best for the finals.’’
     Waiting a day to find out who they’ll face Thursday is a formality. Merrill doesn’t care who it is.
     “We’ll just focus on our team,’’ he said. “We want to make sure we’re sharp and disciplined and ready to go when the time comes.’’
     He said he loved playing in the rain.
     “It was fun,’’ he said. “It reminds you of your youth.
     “It wasn’t too cold out there and we were kinda having fun with it. You can’t let those little things phase you and I thought we did a nice job of sticking to our game plan and playing our game through the elements.’’<
     Huntley’s crew wanted to go into the playoffs on a high note and it did just that.
     “It was a big game for us on the way to the medal round,’’ said defenceman Matt Vinc. “We didn’t play as sharply as we would have wanted to but I think overall we’re happy with the win.
     “England plays more like the Americans and that’s what we’re trying to gear our game plan towards. We’re continuing to work out the kinks and I think we did a good job of that tonight.’’<

Neil Stevens, Team Canada media contact

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