LANGLEY, B.C. — In five appearances since the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship was launched in 2003, the I-Nats have come home with silver medals. While their top opponent, Canada has never lost a game at the event.
The I-Nats went onto the floor with the precedent that they could break Canada’s winning streak, with the talent on the team nearly matching that of their opponents. By comparison, the players on the I-Nats only have a fraction of the player pool to choose from that Team Canada has.
But the Canadians were taking nothing for granted before their 19-12 win over the Iroquois Nationals to capture the Cockerton Cup on Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.
Zed Williams scored five times to lead the Iroquois, Tehoka Nanticoke had three and Cody Jamieson, Randy Staats, Kyle Jackson, and Lyle Thompson each scored once.
With an enthusiastic supporters group pounding their drums in an energized Langley Events Centre, Iroquois got off to a strong start, jumping out to a 1-0 lead when Williams beat Poulin in close on the first shot of the game, just 19 seconds into the game. Canada responded by taking a 4-2 lead before Iroquois equalized again.
“There’s pressure,” acknowledged goaltender Mike Poulin, who stopped 42-of-54 shots for Canada. “Don’t be the guy to lose the first game for Canada. “When there’s pressure if means you’re in an important situation and I like that,” he continued. “It felt great.’’
The opportunity to win gold on home soil playing in front of friends and family was especially sweet for the Canadian team.
“This is the biggest stage, playing for your country,” said Curtis Dickson, who grew up in nearby Port Coquitlam and led the way offensively with five goals. “Getting to do it on home soil, in my back yard, it’s pretty special. I’ve got my family and my girlfriend here. It’s awesome and we’re going to celebrate this win tonight.’’
“We talked about it all along — no assumptions,” said Canadian coach Glenn Clark about the messaging he used to keep his team focused without succumbing to the pressure of sky-high expectations. “The theme was an honest game.
“These guys know what the opponent is and they’re familiar enough with the talent on that other group. so there was no problem keeping them on task, motivated. There’s a real championship pedigree here, with a lot of these guys having a lot of success. They understand what this stage looks like and how to perform at this stage, and you saw that tonight.”
The Canadians scored by committee in their win. Dickson’s five goals were backed up by four from Robert Church, three by Dhane Smith and Dane Dobbie, two from Chris Corbeil and singles from Mark Matthews and Ben McIntosh.
The Canadians led 6-5 after 15 minutes, then outscored Iroquois 5-1 in the second quarter to take an 11-6 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Shots were even at 15-15 in the third quarter, where Canada extended its lead to 14-8 and killed off a holding penalty to Dan Coates late in the frame.
In a wild fourth quarter, the Iroquois scored four times but couldn’t cut the deficit to less than five goals. The game’s final score that was identical to the 19-12 defeat that Iroquois suffered at the hands of Canada in their only loss in pool play.
“I thought this was a better game for the fans,” said Clark. “There were a few power-play goals each way but last game, I think there were, like, seven for each team. `It was a game where both teams knew what was at stake and stayed out of the box and kept the flow how it should be.’’
Iroquois captain Cody Jamieson was named the tournament’s most valuable player. The world all-star team included four Canadians _ Poulin in goal, Kyle Rubisch and Graeme Hossack on defence and Mark Matthews on offence. The other all-stars were Randy Staats of the Iroquois Nationals on offence and Joel White of the United States on transition.
In the end, the medal results aligned with all four previous tournaments _ Canada brings home gold, Iroquois Nationals earning silver and the United States claiming bronze.
The game of lacrosse played today was curated and altered from the original game played by the Haudenosaunee, and when the Iroquois Nationals were admitted into the International Lacrosse Federation (ILF) in 1990, they became the only Native American team sanctioned to compete in any sport internationally.
The Iroquois Nationals hosted the 2015 edition of the championship four years ago at Onondaga Nation, south of Syracuse, New York. In the 2015 gold-medal game, Canada bested the hosts by a score of 12-8.
This year, Iroquois advanced to the gold-medal game after a fourth-quarter come-from-behind 9-7 semifinal win over the United States on Thursday. While Canada defeated England 21-4 to advance.
Earlier on Saturday, the third-ranked U.S. team withstood a second-half surge from the English squad to win their fifth bronze medal by a score of 11-8.
The World Indoor Lacrosse Championship was launched in 2003 with a six-team field and has been held every four years. This fifth edition saw a record 20 teams competing in four tiered groups of five squads each.
The fight for the Iroquois Nationals to earn a gold medal with wage again in 2023.