COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The consensus among fans and analysts heading into Saturday’s Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship final between Canada and the United states was that the Americans, dominant all tournament long, were the clear-cut favorites.
Canada, seeking its first gold since 2006, needed to win faceoffs and control possession to keep the ball away from Team USA’s stacked offense, which came into the championship game averaging 17.83 goals per game and winning 80 percent of its faceoffs.
It wasn't pretty, and the announced 11,861 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park booed Canada in the second half as the team milked a lead that swelled to 8-2 early in the fourth quarter. But it worked. Canada earned just its third world championship Saturday with a shocking 8-5 win.
Despite an attack-driven offense led throughout the tournament by leading scorers Curtis Dickson, Mark Matthews and Adam Jones, it was Canada's midfield that stepped up in the final. Canada midfielder Kevin Crowley, a Chesapeake Bayhawk who came into the game with three goals in six games, scored five times, and midfielder Jordan Hall, who had just one assist in the tournament, finished with two assists.
Veteran faceoff specialist Geoff Snider, the hero of Canada's surprise 2006 gold medal in London, Ontario, helped the Canadians to a 35-22 ground-ball advantage and limited Team USA's duo of Greg Gurenlian and Chris Eck, who went 7-for-14 on the night.
The U.S. offense went cold against Canada. It managed just 30 shots — nearly 20 below its tournament average — against goalkeeper Dillon Ward (10 saves), who played well en route to Most Valuable Player honors. A late three-goal run by Team USA cut Canada's lead to 8-5 with 6:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, firing up the crowd and generating some loud “U-S-A” chants, but it couldn't get them all the way back. A goal by Canada's Wesley Berg with 5:01 left was called off, but the United States couldn't sustain its momentum and did not score again.
Kevin Leveille led the United States with a hat trick, while dangerous midfielders Paul Rabil (Johns Hopkins) and Dave Lawson, who had combined for 42 points entering the final, failed to register a goal or an assist. Rob Pannell had a goal and three assists for the Americans.
The game started slowly, with Canada taking a 2-0 lead after the first quarter on two goals by Crawley. Neither team made much progress in the second quarter, either, and the Canadians took a 3-1 lead into halftime. But just as Team Canada showed against the Iroquois Nation in its 12-6 semifinal win Thursday night, it was an overwhelming third quarter that proved most crucial.
This was the fifth straight time the United States and Canada have played in the gold-medal game, with the Americans winning the last world championship, in 2010, behind MVP Rabil.