It is Thursday morning in Manchester. Team Canada has had the previous day off and the players and coaches are trickling into breakfast and the body language is relaxed and refreshed. Canada will play Australia tonight in the semi-finals and the winner of that game will face the winner of the Japan versus US game. Canada is trying not to look beyond today’s game but there is a growing realisation by everyone involved in this lacrosse tournament that this is a two horse race – Canada versus the USA.
While Wednesday was a day off for Team Canada, it was huge day for two U-16 teams, one from Mimico, Ontario and the other from Lake Oswego, Oregon. Both teams met earlier in the round-robin and Mimico won that game by a goal. The game opens with Mimico jumping to a big lead with markers coming from Derek Downes, Nick Paul, Justin DeMarchi and Dean Ferris while at the other end of the field goalie A.J. Chaulk stands on his head to make several big saves. The Lake Oswego goalie is playing similarly brilliant lacrosse and “stones” Joe French twice before French eventually scores. At some point early in the game Lake Oswego becomes Team USA and Mimico become Team Canada and its game on. The Americans are playing hard and are fighting their way back into the game with a couple of nifty goals and the Canadian lead has now been cut to 5 to 2. Ty Carvalho scores a beautiful goal for Canada but the US comes right back and the score now stands at 6-3. Chaulk makes another big save but the US has grabbed the rebound and scored and the Canadian lead is just 6-4 as the first half comes to an end.
The third quarter opens with a quick goal by the US and the Canadian lead is cut to one goal. Then the US scores again and the game is tied. Someone yells out ‘this is turning out to be a heck of a lacrosse game” and everyone along the sidelines agrees. Canada’s Seamus Shanahan then places a riser in the upper left hand corner of the US net and its 7 to 6 for Canada and French adds another and Canada’s lead is back to two. The US then scores a goal while man down and Canada leads by just one goal. Ferris then scores on a nice feed from Shanahan and its 10 to 8 for Canada.
Canada now has a commanding lead but the Americans refuse to back down – they keep playing hard, intelligent lacrosse and score a beautiful goal to close the gap to two. Both teams trade goals and the score now stands at Canada 11 and USA 9 and then the Americans score two quick goals back to back. There is no visible score clock but it is now late in the game and the score is tied 11 to 11 and the fans are remarking that this has been one of the best games of the entire tournament. The next face-off is crucial, the scrum is intense and Todd Stewart, Canada’s speedy LSM grabs possession and gets the ball to DeMarchi, who is Canada’s go-to-guy in the midfield. Demarchi heads up the field, pauses for a moment to consider his options, then dodges to the right and fires a rocket into the top shelf of the US net. Canada leads 12 to 11 with less than a minute in the game. Canada wins the ensuing face-off, stalls and the game is over.
The Iroquois call lacrosse “the Creators Game” and in their tradition lacrosse is played for the enjoyment of the Creator. In the oral traditions of the Iroquois there is little if any reference to the scores of the game – greatness is achieved by the skill and courage displayed by the play on the field. In this context, both Mimico and Lake Oswego have won the “Creators” game – each team has put forward a performance that is consistent with the highest standards of international lacrosse and while neither team was a true Team Canada or Team USA, both teams represented their respective countries extremely well. What a game!
The lacrosse festival that is occurring in parallel to the World Championships finishes up on Thursday and Canada West and Canada East are both playing in the Grand Masters finals. The Canada West team (affectionately known as the Brewers) is based in Calgary but includes players from Edmonton and Raymond and a couple of Brits to rounds out the roster. They are playing Team England for the bronze, and while Team Canada West soldiers on, they are no match for Team England. The “Brewers” leave England without a win but arguably as the most improved team in the tournament. Every member of the team says they will be back for Denver!
The Grand Master teams from the US and Canada East face-off in the gold medal game and both teams feature star studded line-ups. The US Team, which is a club team out of Florida includes several top NCAA stars from yesteryear including Joe Donnelly, the stand-out goalie from Navy while the Canada East Team is a handpicked roster that includes former Team Canada players Bob Wasson, Pete Follows, Davey Johnstone and Stu Aird. This game turns out to be a classic with both sides trading goals and the first half ends with the score tied 4 to 4. In the second half, both teams give it all that they have and in the end the US offense overwhelms the stretched Canadian defence with the final score being USA 9 and Canada 6. Both teams dominate the final all-star team selections for the tournament.
Grand Masters 2010 All-Star Team
Martin Humphreys – Attack – Team England
Peter Follows –Attack – Team Canada East
John Byrne – Attack – Team USA
Davey Johnstone – Midfield – Team Canada East
Courtney Sanderson – Midfield – Team Canada East
Stu Aird – Midfield /LPM – Team Canada East
Jim Shaler – Defence – Team USA
Sean Weston – Defence – Team USA
Jason Donville – Defence – Team Canada West
Joe Donnelly – Goalie – Team USA
It is now mid-afternoon on Thursday and the semi-final game between Canada and the US is just a couple of hours away. The weather is cloudy but dry but the temperatures have fallen to 16 degrees Celsius. If feels like Autumn in Ontario. Both teams are anxious to get on with the game with Canada entering the game more rested while the Australians are the ones with the most to prove.
Many people attending the World Championships in England are disappointed with the Australian team that has shown up in 2010. Historically, Australia has contended for a top 3 position at the World Championships and has placed as high as second on three occasions. This year the team has lost by unprecedented margins to Canada and the USA and also has a loss to Japan and an overtime win over England. As such, while it is doubtful that Australia will defeat Canada, a strong performance today could redeem the image of Australian lacrosse in many people’s eyes.
Weather Conditions at the start of the game are cloudy, dry and cold. Canada wins the opening face-off and a few moments later Kevin Crowley scores on a feed from John Grant Jr. However, this is a statement game for Australia and they are playing aggressive defence and a spirited, up-tempo offence and they score quickly tying the game at 1 to 1. A minute later Australia scores again and leads Canada 2 to 1. Rhys Duch then replies for Canada and the score is tied at 2 goals apiece. The rest of the quarter results in no further scoring but the game is getting chippy and there is a clear impression that the referees are missing a lot of calls in each direction. Players on both teams are getting knocked to the turf away from the ball and the refs are largely oblivious to this.
Australia opens the scoring at the start of the second quarter and now leads Canada 3-2. A slight hint of nervousness can be detected in the Canadian camp but the game is still in its early stages and Canada has opened slowly before. Then Crowley makes a beautiful dodge from midfield and passes to Billings who buries it and Canada and Australia are now tied 3 to 3. On the ensuing face-off Geoff Snider wins it and runs in and scores and Canada now leads Australia 4 to 3. A minute later John Grant Jr dodges from the midfield and scores one of the most amazing shots in World Lacrosse history as his shoots a one handed on the run between the legs goal with a an Australian long pole wrapped around his head – Canada now leads 5 to 3. Before the quarter ends, Duch, Kevin Huntley and Brodie Merrill each score to expand Canada’s lead to 8 to 3.
The Australians come back in the third quarter with a renewed sense of commitment and this shows in the early going. Australia scores two quick goals and suddenly the margin is cut to three as Canada now leads Australia 8 to 5. Then Snider wins another face-off, feeds Dan Dawson and its 9 to 5 for Canada. Canada and Australia trade goals late in the quarter which ends Canada 10, Australia 6.
The fourth quarter starts with the both team’s goalies being required to make some huge saves. Then Mark Steinhaus scores and Snider scores again directly from a face-off and Canada leads 12 to 6. Huntley and Snider each add goals and then finally Ryan McClelland scores his first goal in international competition to round out the scoring and the game ends with Canada defeating Australia 15 to 6.
With the win, Canada will now face the USA in the gold medal final on Saturday. However, while the final score appears lopsided for Canada, the Australians can be proud of their performance. The Australians were by far more physical with Canada than any other team in the tournament and they also managed to score some impressive goals. The final score was probably not indicative of the margin of play but until Denver, this will be the way things stand for the next four years between Canada and Australia. For Canada, it was a solid performance but the team only seemed to get going in the middle of the third quarter. The team will need to be sharper for Saturday.