Final a repeat match

Iroquois Nation midfielder Matt Alexander (right) is shoved off the ball by Canada's Geoff Snider...

Iroquois Nation midfielder Matt Alexander (right) is shoved off the ball by Canada's Geoff Snider after a faceoff during their world lacrosse semifinal last night at TD Waterhouse Stadium. (London Free Press/Craig Glover)

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

This is what Canadian lacrosse legend Gary Gait envisioned when he signed on to play in London at the world lacrosse championships.

The sport's outgoing idol will get one more opportunity to help his native Canada try to stump the mighty United States for the world title in tomorrow afternoon's much-anticipated nationally televised championship game at 3:30 p.m. at TD Waterhouse Stadium.

"It's nice that the next one is finally this one," the 39-year-old Gait said with a grin moments after Canada dispatched the Iroquois Nationals 16-6 in a rainy semifinal before an announced crowd of 3,534 last night. "This is the one everyone expected."

It's the one CBC Sports, which is looking for lacrosse TV ratings, and London's host organizing committee, which wants to sell some more tickets, hoped they would get at the start of the week. The undefeated U.S. did its part by dismissing Australia 13-10 earlier in the day to trigger an unsurprising, all-North American final.

"We have guys on our team who have won everything there is to win in lacrosse -- Mann Cups, National Lacrosse League titles, Major Lacrosse League championships, college titles," said Canadian leading scorer Jeff Zywicki, who popped five goals last night, "but all 23 of these guys on this team will tell you this is probably the biggest game of their lives.

"We know the history. We know what's at stake."

Despite commanding performances in their two playoff games, Canada (6-1) realizes its odyssey is far from complete in the winner-take-all final. Beating the United States (6-0) in field lacrosse is akin to completing one of the mythical trials of Hercules.

The Stars and Stripes, long the class of the field game, have reeled off an intimidating 38 straight wins and haven't left the field losers since falling to Canada in overtime in the 1978 world final at Stockport, England. The U.S. has won the past six world titles and is gunning to make it a lucky seven.

"Canada has only gotten them once -- in 1978 -- we have another chance," Gait said.

The Canadians have played in four of the past five championship finals, including the previous two when they lost 18-15 to the U.S. in 2002 at Perth, Australia and a 15-14 overtime heartbreaker at the 1998 worlds in Baltimore.

When the two met in the preliminary round, Canadian sniper John Grant Jr. appeared to bag the winner, but it was waved off on a controversial crease violation.

While the home side argued the position of Grant's errant elbow, the U.S. zipped down the field and American attacker Jay Jalbert zipped the deciding marker past Canadian goalie Chris Sanderson for a dramatic 13-12 win.

Though the U.S. boasts an unbelievable field program and proper feeder system in the NCAA college ranks, the Canadians have two things going for them -- motivation to make lacrosse history in front of a supportive home crowd and, more technically, the world's premier faceoff man.

With ball possession a big part of in-game success, Canada's Geoff Snider lived up to his fantastic faceoff reputation last night, winning 18-of-25 draws and even scooting down the field unchecked after one win to score a deflating first-half goal on the Nationals. He entered the contest with 106 wins in 142 draws -- a stunning 75 per cent performance through six games.

Both finalists will practise today on the turf at TD Waterhouse Stadium. Tomorrow's Australia-Iroquois bronze-medal game has been changed to 11 a.m. at TD Waterhouse.

Despite the defeat, the Iroquois Nationals have a chance to grab a medal and put a happy face on what started out as a storm-covered tournament.

On the eve of the worlds, the First Nations squad dismissed head coach Ron Doctor and chose to go with former boss Ron (Mouse) Henry as their sideline boss. The Iroquois lost the bronze game at the 2002 worlds to host Australia.

"That's in the back of our minds -- we were up by three goals with three minutes left in that one," Iroquois veteran Mark Burnham said. "It'd be nice to play for gold or silver but it's still a medal and we want to come out for four quarters, not just two quarters. The Aussies are like us -- they never quit.

"It should be a hell of a game."

The blowout win in the semifinal allowed Canada to rest many of its ailing stars.


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