Canadians lay beating on Japanese

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

Wave bye-bye to Canada's "kinder, gentler" approach.

Tied 6-6 late in the first half of a worrisome opener at the world lacrosse championships, Canada went back to what it does best -- laying the smackdown with physical force -- and went on to blast a small, speedy Japanese squad 18-7 before about 1,500 last night at TD Waterhouse Stadium.

Ditching a pre-tournament vow to stay away from a parade to the penalty chairs, the Canadians' aggressive behaviour played a big part in the hosts outscoring Japan 10-1 in a dominant second half with the visitors' goal coming with three minutes left in the game.

"We felt we have better athletes than they do and we wanted to use our size to our advantage," said Canada's star defender Brodie Merrill. "We grow up with the box game and it's a physical style, and that's what we like to play. We had a plan to get in front of them and initiate contact and we did that very well in the second half."

When Canada did blast a Japanese ball-carrier with a big hit to draw a penalty, a dedicated defence limited the opposition to one goal on nine power-plays.

Merrill, who took two thunderous body-checking penalties in the third quarter, broke a 6-6 tie late in the first half by lugging the ball up the field himself and putting his team ahead. From there, Canada went on a scoring spree that brought up memories of the earlier 20-8 U.S. thrashing of Australia.

It'll be interesting to see what style Canada uses today in its nationally televised game against the Iroquois Nationals at 1:30 p.m.

Worried lacrosse folks who thought Canada might suffer offensively this week without Gary Gait's twin brother Paul (12 goals in six games at the 2002 worlds in Perth, Australia), Matt Shearer (11 goals) and controversial cut John Tavares (10 goals) have forgotten about Gary Gait, Jeff Zywicki (five goals last night) and John Grant Jr., (four goals and eight shots).

Grant led the top division in scoring (18) in Perth.

"I think our offence is going to be our strength -- we have so many talented scorers," Merrill said. "The drill is going to be the defence and how we play every night. We have a lot of good athletes back there but we'll see how we go game in and game out. It was a good opener. You think about this for so long and then it's here and you're gripping your stick pretty tight.

"By the second half, you could see the guys loosen up."

The goal flood began just as the rain started and Japan couldn't turn off the tap.

In the opening minutes, the game belonged to the Canadian old guys -- goalie Chris Sanderson, who made a couple of early saves to keep his club ahead, and retiring international Gait, who potted Canada's first goal of the tournament 4 1/2 minutes into the game, then made a gorgeous pass to set up Grant for another quick marker.

"Last time around (in 2002), it was the swan song for Paul Gait," Canada midfielder Colin Doyle said earlier this week. "This time it's the last (international tournament) for Gary. This is one he hasn't won yet and we're looking forward to this."

Japan was moved up to the top group (Blue Division) for these championships after rolling through the 2002 worlds round robin unbeaten. It followed that with a 13-12 upset over England in the fifth-place game. The teams meet Monday in their final preliminary.

This week, the Japanese scoring is led by Shinya Maruyama and Yoshiro Suzumura, who combined for 48 goals in eight games in '02.


Videos

Photos