From Canadian Men’s Indoor Lacrosse Team
May 29, 2011
CHAMPIONSHIP SHIELD STAYS IN CANADIAN HANDS
PRAGUE _ Canada’s team carted it all the way to the capital of the Czech Republic, and they brought it all the way back home.
There was no way the players were going to give up the world indoor lacrosse championship shield.
“We earned it,’’ said captain Colin Doyle. “We were a great team.
“There’s no doubt about that. Our roster was stacked with talent. This was a team that came here for a purpose and was focused and driven. It was an unbelievable experience with these guys.’’
Doyle of Kitchener, Ont., and the NLL’s Toronto Rock, is a repeat world champion. Many others on the team were first-timers.
“I’m just happy to be a part of this,’’ said elated defenceman Bill Greer as he and his teammates headed into the heart of the city for a celebratory gathering. “It’s an absolute honour to be part of this team.
“It’s such a great group of guys. We played a team defence to shut opponents down and we knew our offence would pile up some goals. We let them do their job and we did our job.’’
There were many facets of Canada’s domination of one and all, and the goaltending of Matt Vinc was repeatedly mentioned during post-game interviews.
“Vino was unbelievable,’’ said Greer of Oshawa, Ont., and the NLL’s Edmonton Rush.
“Vino stood on his head,’’ said Iroquois Nationals forward Cody Jamieson of Six Nations and Vinc’s teammate with the NLL’s Rochester Knighthawks.
Vinc said he was a little nervous when the Iroquois Nationals opened the scoring in the game for gold.
“It was a tight game but when we exploded for six in the second quarter that made my job easier,’’ said Vinc of St. Catharines, Ont. “The defence kept them away like they did most of the tournament. I had basically outside shots the rest of the game.’’
It was a long-awaited championship for Vinc.
“Losing in the NLL definitely left a bitter taste in my mouth but I had an opportunity to come out here and get to play with arguably the best team in the world,’’ he said. “It’s definitely a great feeling. It’s going to make the summer a little bit easier.’’
He’s been NLL goalie of the year the last two years.
“I’m becoming a little bit better mentally in preparing for the big games,’’ he said. “I’m not psyching myself out anymore.
“The Nationals hit some posts early on and I think earlier in my career that might have spooked me a little bit. Basically, I was able to make one save at a time . I focused on that all year so I think that’s been the biggest thing for me.’’
Greer and many of his teammates became world champions for the first time.
“It couldn’t have been a better week and a half for us here,’’ he said. “It was the experience of a lifetime. I’m honoured I was part of it.
“It’s something I’m going to cherish the rest of my life. I’m just so thrilled I was able to be a part of it and for the rest of my life I’m going to be able to say I was a world champion playing for Canada. It doesn’t get any better than that.’’
Many of the players now join summer league teams.
“You wish you could play with these guys a little bit longer,’’ said assistant captain Brodie Merrill. “It was really a great group.
“I’d played with some of them in the past and some of them for the first time and we were all in it for the right reasons. We played by the principles the coaches set out for us so it was very rewarding to win the gold again.’’
Pat Merrill set up a key goal in the 13-6 title game win when he intercepted an Iroquois pass and fed his younger brother for a breakaway chance he buried.
“A little bit of fate intervened there,’’ said Pat Merrill. “I’ll never forget that goal for the rest of my life. It’ll always be special to me.’’
He said that he and his teammates were full of confidence when they faced the Nationals on Saturday night.
“I think we were so well balanced that it was just a matter of time before we pulled away,’’ he said. “We were working very hard and were really focused coming in.
“Vino gave us the saves we needed early and then the offence got going and our defence locked it down. We took it from there.’’
The Merrills are originally from Orangeville, Ont. Pat Merrill, Doyle and Team Canada teammates Stephan Leblanc and Sandy Chapman had won the NLL title with Toronto on May 15. Two titles in 13 days _ not bad.
Canada’s most difficult game turned out to be its semifinal clash with the United States, which it won 15-10. The U.S. won bronze be defeating the Czech Republic, which had its highest-ever finish, fourth.
“One thing I noticed is that the gap is narrowing every four years we hold this competition,’’ said Brodie Merrill, captain of the NLL’s Edmonton Rush. “The Czech team had a great showing and the Iroquois are very talented. Our team had great balance and once we hit our stride we were awfully tough to stop.’’
It was the third world indoor gold medal for John Grant Jr. of Peterborough and the NLL’s Colorado Mammoth.
“I like winning, period,’’ Grant said. “No matter what team you’re on, whether it’s a ball hockey team back home in the gym or the basement of a church or winning the world championship, it’s a thrill and I think that’s why each one of these guys was here. They want to win at whatever they’re doing.
“I’m just lucky and proud to be on this team. When you’re surrounded by such excellent lacrosse players, it’s just a thrill to be on the floor with them.’’
Grant has now played in 42 internationals, and he says he’s going to try and stick around for the next world indoor tournament in 2015.
“I’m going to do my best to come back,’’ he said. “I think I’ve already been given my retirement speech by a couple of the upper echelon staff but I’ll play until somebody tells me I can’t.’’
Speedy forward Shawn Evans of Peterborough and the Knighthawks came on strong in the final.
“We have a great team here and we played a great team game,’’ he said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m going to cherish it. I’m just glad to have had the chance to play with these guys and win a championship.’’
Dan Dawson of Oakville, Ont., and the NLL’s Boston Blazers was a tower of strength at the opponent’s crease, as usual. He was on the victorious 2007 team, too.
“The feeling never leaves you,’’ he said. “This is probably the best group I’ve ever played with _ from the organizing committee to the coaching staff and to the players. It was the best lacrosse I’ve ever been a part of.’’
Josh Sanderson of Orangeville and the Blazers was another key contributor in the final.
“It was a great win,’’ he said. “It was a great team effort.
“It was probably our best game of the tournament. Vino held us in there while we were finding our legs and after that we played really well.’’
Canada’s speed was a determining factor, too.
“We kept working hard and that wore on them,’’ said Sanderson. “We kept going at them and started shooting the ball well and everything started to fall for us.
“Everybody bought in from the get-go and came to play hard every game to develop good habits, even in the games against teams that weren’t up to our calibre. The good habits started in our exhibition game against the Czech Republic and we just continued on from there.’’
Jordan Hall of Surrey, B.C., and the Knighthawks saved his best game of the tournament for when it mattered most. He erased a 1-0 Iroquois lead with two goals of his own to put Canada ahead to stay.
“I’m definitely happy to win,’’ he said. “I’ve had a lot of second place between the Mann Cup and the NLL. It’s been a rough little while with second place so I’m hoping the winning continues now.’’
Rhys Duch of Victoria and the NLL’s Washington Stealth was another key contributor up front.
“We set out with a goal in mind and it was almost as if we wouldn’t settle for anything less,’’ said Duch. “I don’t think I’ve ever been around a tournament team that was so dedicated and so committed to a goal.
“It was a team full of 25 leaders and what emerged was gold. That’s reflective of management, veterans, captains down to the younger players being committed. Coming into the tournament we were the favourites and we just had to prove to everybody why we were.’’
Blazers rookie D Kyle Rubisch of Brampton, Ont., says winning the title and having a ribbon holding a gold medal placed around his neck was an amazing feeling.
“I was honoured to be on the team and then to actually win the championship with this group of guys, from the staff to the coaches and players, is awesome,’’ he said. “When you can come together and win something like this for your country, it’s something special for sure.’’
Rory Smith of Mimico, Ont., and the NLL’s Minnesota Swarm took an early major penalty. He bowed his head in the penalty box, hoping his teammates would bale him out.
“I thought I cost the team,’’ said the tough defenceman. “But our man short unit played amazing. I actually did a little prayer in the penalty box _ a five-minute penalty in a world championship game is brutal. It’s awful. Thank God, it didn’t matter at all. They got one but Jordan Hall came back and got two. It felt great to see that.’’
Being a world champion is a new experience for Smith.
“I never actually won anything in my life so it’s great to win something with Team Canada,’’ he said.
Brett Mydske of New Westminster, B.C., and the Rush is another outstanding young defenceman.
“It was an all-around team effort from the goaltending on out,’’ he said after the title game. “People have been saying all tournament that this is the best team Canada has ever put together and we showed it.’’
Mike Carnegie of London, Ont., and NLL’s Calgary Roughnecks said the defence clicked because everyone was on the same page.
“The communication level was so high and the skill and athleticism was so high that even if you make a mistake the recovery is there,’’ he said. “The fact a lot of the guys had played together before and had played big games helped, and know what’s on the line and having the willingness to sacrifice and play a role, doing whatever it takes to win, was another part of it. I think that’s why our defence was so good.’’
Canada’s swift transition breaks had the Nationals reeling.
“A lot of guys like Brodie, Mydske, Greer and Chappy (Sandy Chapman) can run the ball up the floor really well,’’ said Carnegie. “We had a lot of horses back there. That’s the reason we were able to get the ball up the floor so quickly.’’
And now he’s a world champion.
“It’s a humbling experience to know you’re part of such a quality group,’’ said Carnegie. “Right from management, the CLA representatives, our trainers, it was a first-class organization. I’m just proud and happy to be part of it.’’
Big defenceman Jeff Moleski was another first-time world champ.
“It was an unbelievable experience,’’ said the Prince George, B.C., resident and Stealth defenceman. “It’s nice to be the best in the world.’’
Jeff Zywicki of Nepean, Ont., and the Stealth, who scored the overtime winner in the 2007 world indoor tournament, sat out Saturday but was a team player all the way.
“It was a good time,’’ he said of the unique experience of playing in the Czech Republic. “Prague is an awesome city. It was a good experience, and it’s great to win. It was a great group of guys and a great win.’’
Head coach Eddie Comeau, assistants Derek Keenan, Paul Day, Jim Milligan and Glenn Clark did a marvellous job of pulling everything together for executive director Dean French and GM Johnny Mouradian, and Dr. Rardi van Heest and physios Karen Nichol and Stephen Lobsinger kept the players’ bodies together.
Ward Sanderson, a former Western Lacrosse Association star who now lives in the Denver region, answered a late call to handle equipment and was one of the most inspirational people around the team. Diesel, as some of the players nicknamed him after he volunteered to drive the equipment van, had this to say as he pulled away from the arena with the final load of players.
“This was the greatest team ever put on a lacrosse floor.’’
TEAM CANADA media contact: Neil Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org