Two winners emerged from Tuesday’s World Games Gold Medal matchup between the top two lacrosse teams in the world.
The first winner – the ones who left PNC with Gold medals around their necks – was a marvelous Canadian team, which blitzed the competition from its opening faceoff in Birmingham and culminated the experience by blitzing a strong United States team, 23-9, in the championship game.
The second winner was Birmingham itself, as well as a growing lacrosse community. More than 2,500 fans showed up, most of them arriving for all or part of Japan’s thrilling 18-17 overtime bronze medal win over Great Britain. They were loud and most stayed until the final whistle of what was a lopsided title contest.
“I was a skeptic, I’m not going to lie,” said Canada’s Zach Currier, a defenseman by trade, who had five goals on Tuesday. “I didn’t know how it was going to be, coming down to Birmingham, Alabama, where lacrosse is not necessarily a hotbed. But, to see the stands full and hearing the crowd cheering, very cool. So many people out here know where the players play in the summer. I had a bunch of people come up to me saying ‘Go Dogs’ because I play for the Waterdogs (in the Professional Lacrosse League). I was pleasantly surprised to see how big the game is here.”
Unfortunately for the big crowd, though, Canada gave them little to cheer about from the outset. The tone was set early when Canada goalie Brett Dobson turned away the Americans’ first three shots. On two of those, Dobson threw a perfectly placed pass to a streaking Currier, who converted the opportunities into a 2-0 lead. By the end of the first quarter, the Canadians enjoyed a 6-1 lead.
“I think as a goalie, if you can stop the first couple of shots, you can get going,” said the 22-year-old Dobson, who was playing in his first international tournament with the national team. “It’s a big confidence booster. Getting the momentum early is great to have. Especially the way this format is (in the 6s game).”
U.S. goalie Jack Kelly has been solid throughout the tournament but Canada’s offense was clicking once again. Canada finished with 33 shots and 30 of those were on goal.
“They just played really well,” Kelly said. “They were the better team today. They played really fast, they shot the ball at a high percentage. They took very quality shots, very close to the crease. That’s what they wanted to do.”
Canada stretched the lead to 14-5 by halftime with Josh Byrne tallying five times and Currier added four. The United States grabbed a glimmer of hope when Colin Heacock and Connor Kirst scored on back-to-back possessions to make the score 16-8. The quick run raised the noise level in the stadium and the confidence level picked up for the United States.
The Americans forced a turnover and got a quality shot from Zach Goodrich. Dobson made the save, got the ball out quickly and Bryan Cole quieted the home crowd with a momentum-changing goal. Canada closed out the quarter with three more goals to lead 20-8 heading into the fourth quarter.
Canada goalie Brett Dobson was outstanding in gold medal win. pic.twitter.com/jTt6iKVKOT— Steve Irvine (@SteveIrvine04) July 13, 2022
“Lacrosse is a big-time momentum game,” Currier said. “The crowd was going nuts after their second goal. For us, to limit runs and go on runs of our own was super helpful.”
Canada closed out the win with another dominant performance. Afterward, it was a dejected U.S. team that received a Silver medal. But Kelly found a silver lining.
"At the end of the day I wouldn’t want to be with any other 11 players,” Kelly said. “We had the talent to win that game and they were just the better team today. I think everyone in the locker room, I can speak for them, it’s a true honor to represent the USA. Not many players get that opportunity. It’s really, really special and something to be proud of. You never know when you’re going to put on that uniform again.”
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