Iroquois defeats USA, set sights on Canada in WILC gold-medal game
Six feathers along the top half of the traditional Iroquois flag represent the confederacy of the Six Nations. The rest of the feathers on the staff represent the Haudenosaunee people.
“It just pride for our people,” Bucktooth said, when asked why he carried the flag when he was introduced. “I know there’s a lot of representation out there for the Haudenosaunee people. That’s just kind of our banner.”
The Iroquois, seeking to win their first World Indoor Lacrosse Championship, will carry that banner into the gold medal game Sunday, where they will attempt to unseat the undefeated Canadians. The Iroquois earned that right by beating the United States 17-10 in the second of two semifinal games here. Canada, which has never lost in the history of WILC, eliminated Israel in the other semifinal.
Friday’s crowd, decidedly pro-Iroquois, spilled into standing-room-only territory and was initially stunned when Joe Walters ripped two outside shots to stake the Americans to a 2-0 lead. But then Bucktooth, the former Syracuse University star, halved that advantage.
Invaluable to the Iroquois for his lacrosse pedigree and his leadership qualities, Bucktooth cut across the middle, saw the USA defenders predictably sticking to Lyle and Miles Thompson and fired behind his back past goalie David Mather.
“I just cut to the middle, was playing lacrosse and that was the only shot I had,” he said.
The Iroquois, with their joy for the game and their quick, decisive sticks, make the spectacular seem routine. Two plays, executed two minutes apart, epitomize their lethal goal-striking brilliance and explain why it’s so difficult to defend them:
Roger Vyse drove to the cage, drew an American defender, then deftly looped a pass behind his back to Johnny Powless, who easily scored on Mather.
Then, Vyse drove to the cage, laid his body out horizontally along the crease while simultaneously directing the ball into the corner.
By then, 30 seconds before halftime, the Iroquois led Team USA 11-4.
“They make it so tough on you,” USA coach Tony Resch said. “They just move the ball back and forth so quickly and the defense is trying to adjust and it’s an uphill battle the whole way.”
“We just ran into a better opponent tonight,” USA defender Brett Manney said. “It’s how they work the ball around. You take your ahead around for a second and their winging it behind you, in front of you. And that’s a credit to their stickwork and their chemistry.”
The Thompson brothers have drawn the most public praise, but the beauty of the Iroquois is that so many players can score and set up their teammates. They led the Canadians, 8-4, the first time they met in this tournament before falling 11-9. Iroquois coach Rich Kilgour kept talking Friday night about limiting mistakes, about not permitting the Canadians to capitalize on any errors.
“You don’t want to make too many mistakes,” he said, “or the ball will end up in the back of the net.”
The two best teams will play for the gold medal Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Carrier Dome. For the Iroquois, who have played in front of family and friends on their journey to the title game, unseating Canada would be even sweeter so close to home soil.
After Friday night’s victory over the Americans, Kilgour carried a wooden stick into the post-game news conference and set it on the table in front of him. He was asked about the stick’s significance.
“We’ve been hanging it on the bench in our own silent protest that they won’t let us use them in this tournament,” he explained.
The time seemed right, a couple days away from a game that will decide the WILC 2015 champion, to make a symbolic statement.