Canada fights image

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

The Canadian lacrosse team may have to resort to the desperate measures celebrities and politicians take when their popularity plummets.

Namely, hire an image makeover consultant.

Canada's heart-breaking 13-12 preliminary-round loss to the United States reinforced the team's general feeling that the host country can't shake its image as a rough-and-tumble team in the eyes of the field lacrosse world and its officials.

"They think we're a goon squad," Canadian John Grant, Jr. said. "It's that box lacrosse mentality and it hurts us to play a physical game. You look at the other end of the field and we're taking penalties for the same things the U.S. is doing to us but they aren't getting called for it."

The Canadians took 11 1/2 minutes in penalties to the Americans' five in the see-saw affair. The U.S. converted on three of 13 power-play opportunities and the Canadians one of six.

Canadian coach Frank Nielsen was upset at calls for slashing and body-checking infractions he thought were legal and just shrugged at his team starting out the game with eight straight penalties.

"But I thought our defence did a pretty good job on penalty-killing," Canadian veteran goalie Chris Sanderson said. "They were 0-for-9 (in the first half and held the talented Powells -- Ryan, Michael and Casey -- to a goal apiece in the contest).

"The thing we always have to get used to," Sanderson said, "is in box, we're used to a little bit of leeway from the officials but in the international field game, you don't get that. You say one curse word and they flag you for unsportsmanlike. We have to learn to take it and not complain."

That's easier said than done but the Canadians go into every game knowing they're effective when they play with an edge and passion but the price is short-handed situations. Opponents are usually more than happy to play a passive style because the Canadian power-play is devastating.

Jeff Zywicki, who scored five goals yesterday for Canada, thinks the positive in the loss is his squad continues to figure out how it has to play to win this tournament. They know they can play with the U.S. -- they just have to play a little smarter.

"It wasn't the heat -- that was the same for both teams -- and at even strength, I thought we outplayed them," he said. "The difference was one play and if we get the chance to face them again, we know what we have to do. We went into this knowing we had a good team and this result doesn't change that."

Even American attacker Jay Jalbert, who potted the winner to complete his hat trick with three seconds left, admitted there's not much of a difference between the two teams.

"They know they're good and we know we're good," he said. "Little things decide games between us. We have the chance to finish first (in the round-robin) and there is an advantage to finishing first. You get a day off, maybe rest the legs and hang out. It's a good situation."


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