MANCHESTER, England _ It was considered inevitable when the world field lacrosse championships began and now it’s official: Canada and the United States will again meet in the final.
     Canada defeated Australia 15-6 and the U.S. drubbed Japan 20-5 in the semifinals Thursday.

     “I think it’ll be a great game,’’  said David Huntley, Canada’s head coach. ‘`It’s been the game everybody’s thinking would happen and it’s happened.
     “Both teams have another gear left and it has all the makings of being a terrific lacrosse game.’’
     During the round-robin phase, Canada edged the U.S. 10-9.
     The U.S. won eight and Canada two of  the previous 10 world tournaments, which are held every four years. Canada won it all in 1978 and in 2006.
     Geoff Snider scored three goals in having his best game of the tournament against Australia, Garrett Billings, Rhys Duch and Kevin Huntley got two each, John Grant, Kevin Crowley, Brodie Merrill, Dan Dawson, Mark Steenhuis and Ryan McClelland chipped in with one each and Chris Sanderson earned the goaltending victory.
     The score didn’t reflect Canada’s early problems getting things going. Attacker Zack Greer sat out with what coach David Huntley said was a case of food poisoning and his absence forced changes in the offensive scheme of things. It took a while to adjust.
     It was 2-2 at the end of one quarter and Australia led 3-2 early in the second quarter.
     Then came the turning point. Crowley dodged a check and fed Billings for a clean shot resulting in a tying goal and Snider won the ensuing facoff, ran through the Aussie defence to score the goal that put Canada ahead for good.
     “You see what opens up and if it opens up you make the play,’’ Snider said. “That’s one thing coach Huntley has worked a lot with me on _ making educated decisions around taking chances.
     “The opportunity was there and I took a chance and it worked out for the best. It’s a team game and without attackmen like John Grant, Kevin Huntley, Garrett Billings and Dan Dawson you know those lanes don’t open up for you and you’re not in position to score. It was just one of those things that presented itself and fortunately the ball found the back of the net.’’
    Grant made it 5-3 with one of the trick shots for which he’s famous. He was being checked as he ran towards the crease and, with one hand on his stick, swung it to shoot between his legs and bounce the ball in.
     “I’ve been doing it for a few years now,’’ he said.  “It was at a crucial and we were kind of reeling there.
     “It was a good time for it, but I’ve got to play much better.’’
     Grant left the field muttering about “the six open nets I missed’’ and Steenhuis said the goal of getting to the final was accomplished after a strong 5-0 fourth quarter but “we have lots to think about and reflect on this game to see where we went wrong and what to correct for the next one.’’
     Alex Brown scored two goals for the Aussies.
     “It was a really good game by the Aussie boys,’’ he said. “We came into the game as underdogs but we still had a strong belief we could tough it out with the best.
     “We can improve a lot going forward. I’m really proud of the boys.’’
     Brown’s team has played both Canada and the United States and, if the two again meet in the final, he’d pick Canada to win.
     “I like Canada because its inside ball movement is by far better than that of the Americans, and there’s no egos,’’ he said.
     The Australian defence is comprised of a big and rough bunch of checkers who got away with a lot of unpunished fouls Thursday. Late in the first quarter, star Canadian defender Merrill was slashed between the legs and had to leave the game for 10 minutes, and there was no penalty assessed.
     Canada’s coach wasn’t going to quibble about how slow his team started.
     “The Australians came out strong,’’ said Huntley. “They played terrific in the first quarter but I thought our guys played pretty well, too.
     “We missed some easy chances. It was a close game (early on) and credit to them for hanging in there but credit our guys for staying focused and finally pulling away.’’
     McClelland, a defenceman, got his first world championship goal, and the last of the game just before time ran out.
     “It was nice to get that hump off my back,’’ he said. “I played a couple of MLL games and had some chances and didn’t bury and had a chance early in this game but I got to finish that one at the end and it’s definitely a relief.
     “Australia played really well. They came out at us with everything they had and we were able to fight through some (officiating) calls and adversity and we came out on top. It was definitely a big win and exciting for the team. We’re looking forward to the gold medal game on Saturday and just sort of living out the moment.’’
     Coach Huntley is well aware of what his team will face Saturday as the Americans try to win back the title they yielded four years ago in London, Ont.
     “They have a great big-game goaltender in Brian Dougherty, their defence is solid _ great sticks and off-ball guys _ and at the midfield they’ve got a lot of two-way guys who can defend but also play great offence, and their attack has some terrific finishers and passers. I don’t think there is any one aspect of their game that scares us. We respect all parts of their game.’’

Neil Stevens
Team Canada media contact

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