Junior attacker Delby Powless, from Six Nations Grand River Territory in southern Ontario, lead the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights with 32 goals and 36 points this spring, into their first NCAA Division I championship appearance since 1990, where they fell 9 - 6 to the Georgetown Hoyas in the first round. Powless didn't miss a beat, however, and went directly to the Iroquois Nationals line-up for the inaugural World Indoor Lacrosse Championship (WILC). His tournament-leading 24 goals and 19 assists in 6 games have powered the Nationals to the gold-medal game, where they will face Team Canada this coming Saturday at the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton.
Canada went undefeated, paced by Buffalo Bandit John Tavares (17 goals, 23 assists, second in tournament scoring) and Rochester Knighthawk John Grant Jr. (15 goals, 21assists, fourth overall). The Canadians rolled over an offence-challenged Team USA 16 - 5 to finish the round-robin undefeated, and relegated the US squad to the bronze-medal game a day later with a decisive 17 - 9 semi-final win. Bob "Whipper" Watson of the Toronto Rock is the tourney's top 'tender with an .873 goals-against average.
The Nationals, drawing players from the Iroquois territories in Canada and the United States, dropped one game, 15 - 13 to Canada on Day 2, setting up their semi-final against Scotland, where they gave 3 - 1 head start to the (mostly ex-patriate, second generation) sons of St. Andrew before surging to a 22 - 8 victory. In addition to Powless, Knighthawk Cory Bomberry of Six Nations was the third-leading tournament scorer with 14 goals and 26 assists, the Onondaga Nation's Neal Powless (Columbus Landsharks) added 19 goals and 16 assists, and Six Nations' Kimbo Squire of the Rock contributed 14 goals and 21 assists. Goalie Ken Montour of Six Nations (and the 'sharks) is right behind Watson with an .802 goals-against average, while Six Nations' Derek "Chico" General of the New Jersey Storm made 44 saves in an outstanding outing against Canada.
Team USA, missing most of the frontline players from last year's victorious Heritage Cup squad due to strictures from Major League Lacrosse, finished the round-robin at 2-and-3, losing to Canada, the Iroquois and Scotland. They added the Colorado Mammoth's Mike Law and Knighthawk Jeremy Hollenbeck to their line-up for the rematch with Canada, but were still held to a single-digit goal total. US-born Six Nations goalie Jake Henhawk has a .741 goals-against average, while well-travelled NLL veteran Chris Panos leads their scorers with 17 goals and 11 assists.
Scotland's roster, benefiting from the infamous Highland Clearances, features 64-year-old goalie John Marr of Glasgow, and Canadian NLL'ers Dan Teat (Albany Attack), Kyle Arbuckle (Landsharks), Darryl Gibson (Rock) and 'tender Derek Collins (Ottawa Rebel). The US contingent includes former Hofstra Bulldog Gerry Donghy, as well as RPI's Jeff Hobbs. The Scots are coached by Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Famer Paul Suggate, one of several Canadian "guest coaches" enlisted to aid the newcomer national sides in the adjustment and transition to the box lacrosse game of the WILC. They defeated Australia and the Czechs, and surprised the USA 15 - 12 in the prelims, before losing their semi-final 22 - 8 to the Iroquois Nationals. Teat is their top scorer with 18 goals and 15 assists.
Australia, while no strangers to the field game, had the benefit of another Canadian Hall of Famer, Ron "Groucho" MacNeil, behind their bench, and a couple of pre-tournament "friendlies" against Ontario teams to acclimatize them to the box game. They managed a win against the Czechs in the round robin, and won the semi-final rematch 21 - 10 to claim fifth place overall.
The Czech Republic made their first Worlds appearance last summer in Australia, but they are no strangers to the box game, with very active senior and junior leagues. Although they failed to win a game, they demonstrated some deadly shooting accuracy from outside, and are superbly conditioned athletes. The front-office and bench staff, lead by General Manager Milan Topol and Head Coach Jan Barak, are veteran founders of Czech lacrosse. Their offence was lead by Pavel Dosly and Martin Mrlik, while goalies Jiri Malina and Milan Tulachek anchored the defence.
USA vs. Scotland, Bronze Medal Game
10:00 a.m., Saturday, May 24
Copps Coliseum, Hamilton Ontario
Team USA should benefit from the late addition of Law and Hollenbeck to the offence, which has been lead by Kevin Finneran (Rock) and Dan Marohl Philadelphia Wings), and either Dwight Maetche (Vancouver Ravens) or Jake Henhawk can give them solid goaltending. Paul Talmo (Storm) and Regy Thorpe (Knighthawks) anchor a veteran defence. There has to be some disappointment on the US side, after their success in last year's Heritage Cup, and this may show in the "consolation" game. Scotland, on the other hand, will be in front of a supportive, home crowd (not just because of their Canadian players, but also the Scottish heritage of many Hamilton and area residents). While the 10:00 a.m. start time may keep the attendance down, the teams can expect an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd. This should be an entertaining and close game - too bad so many will miss it - but the advantage should be to the Scots.
Canada vs. Iroquois Nationals, Gold Medal Game
1:30 p.m., Saturday, May 24
Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, Ontario
[Live on Rogers Sportsnet, webcast on thelacrossejournal.com]
General Manager Johnny Mouradian and Head Coach Les Bartley have done some re-tooling of the Canadian line-up since the embarrassing - and here in box lacrosse land there is no other way to describe it - loss in the Heritage Cup. Several top-flight defensive players have been added to Team Canada, notably Jim Moss and Cam Woods of the Attack, and Rich Catton of the Ravens, not to mention 2003 NLL Goaltender of the Year Pat O'Toole of the Knighthawks. This is not to say that they have stood pat with the offence. Chris Driscoll (Rock) and Andy Ogilvie (Bandits) are noteworthy additions to an offensive corps that already boasts the likes of Tavares, Grant, and Calgary Roughnecks Captain Tracy Kelusky and Kaleb Toth. Thus team also has a wealth of veteran leadership, with no less than three NLL team captains, the Rock's Jim Veltman, Calgary's Kelusky and Albany's Woods.
Fresh from his re-vitalization of the Buffalo Bandits, Nationals Head Coach Darris Kilgour, along with General Manager Rusty Doxtdator of the OLA Major Series Six Nations Chiefs, and the remainder of the managerial and coaching staff, have assembled a squad that decisively demonstrated that they should be in this final. In addition to top gunners Delby Powless, Cory Bomberry, Neal Powless and Kim Squire, this roster boasts the likes of Ex-Knighthawk, now Bandit Dwayne "Dewey" Jacobs (Six Nations), Philadelphia Wing Tony Henderson (Newtown), the Storm's Cam Bomberry (Six Nations), former Syracuse Smash forward Al Jones (Onondaga), Landshark Kyle Jamieson (Six Nations), and Rock rookie Tom Montour (Six Nations). Colorful Storm scorer Mike Benedict (Akwesasne), previously announced as one of the Nationals key players, was unable to make the tournament.
In front of Six Nations goalies Ken Montour ('sharks) and Derek "Chico" General (Storm), Tim Bomberry (Storm, and Six Nations Police) and Six Nations' Bob Henry (Bandits) and the rest of the Nationals defenders have done a stalwart job. So how do the Nationals match up against Canada?
The tournament's top goalies and scorers will be facing each other. The offence / defence equation is evenly balanced, coaching and leadership pretty much the same. With the notable exception of Delby Powless, all the key players know each other very well. So, who wants it more?
The Canadians are playing the national sport, the Nationals are playing the Creator's Game, national pride (sliced every which way) is very much in the balance. With Six Nations Grand River Territory less than a half-hour's drive from the Copps Coliseum, there could be a massive walk-up gate from the Rez. I believe this game is "pick 'em", and overtime would not surprise me at all.
All photos from the WILC website and taken by 20 Toe Photo
Note: As you might gather from the byline, I want to acknowledge with gratitude the contribution of Andrew McKay, whose game reports and summaries can be found at both his new Web site, TheLacrosseJournal.com, and worldindoorlacrosse.com, official site of the Championship.