Storybook finish for Gait

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

The pillars of world field lacrosse have shaken and crumbled to the ground.

In a sport historically dominated by the United States, host Team Canada denied the mighty American machine a seventh straight title with a convincing 15-10 victory for this country's first gold medal in nearly 30 years at the world championships before an announced crowd of 7,735 in mostly steady rain yesterday afternoon at TD Waterhouse Stadium.

Playing in his final international game, Canadian lacrosse legend Gary Gait exploded for four goals in the fourth quarter to underline a true storybook finish.

"It was the only championship I hadn't won and now I can fade off into the sunset," the 39-year-old Gait said with a big grin. "I first tried out for this team 22 years ago so it was a long time coming."

The Canadian victory snapped the Americans' 28-year unbeaten string and 38-game winning streak at the worlds. Their only other loss in the tournament was to Canada in overtime at the 1978 worlds in Stockport, England.

"It's an unbelievable feeling to do something like this," said Canadian attacker Jeff Zywicki, who scored four times in the first half. "We knew what it would take and we came out and worked our asses off for 80 minutes."

Canadian faceoff guru Geoff Snider, who finished 19-for-28 yesterday, was selected the tournament MVP. The 25-year-old Calgary native helped his team dominate first possession in the tournament and his quick hands were a key to the historic win.

"When they called my name, I couldn't believe it," he said. "Really, I'm just a small part of this. We had a close group of guys -- just a bunch of idiots put together in a dorm room for a couple of weeks -- and every one of them is a first-class guy.

"We wanted to win this for Gary. He is the reason this sport was able to get off the ground in North America and he was our motivation."

Gait was quiet for much of the game and U.S. defender John Gagliardi performed an admirable job of keeping Canadian offensive leader John Grant Jr. frustrated. But Canada had others -- 21-year-old injury replacement Jordan Hall, Gavin Prout and Zywicki -- rise to the occasion before Gait and Grant took over in the final 15 minutes.

"When it was our turn to step up, we did our job but this was a complete team effort," Gait said. "We picked this team not necessarily with the best lacrosse players -- we could've added more attack or defence -- but everybody on this team had a role. This was the best defence Canada has ever had and they proved they're the best in the world."

The 10 goals scored by the U.S. was its lowest total since the tournament started in 1967. Canadian goalie Chris Sanderson, who adds a gold medal to two previous silver medals, made 14 saves on the heavy-shooting Americans.

The highly skilled U.S. squad -- led by brothers Michael, Casey and Ryan Powell -- felt it couldn't generate late momentum and Snider's faceoff wins were the difference. It didn't help that shifty Michael Powell rolled his ankle in the first half, repeating an injury he suffered before the tournament.

"We didn't win enough draws -- give him (Snider) credit," Michael Powell said. "Hopefully, we come back in four years and get them but they played a great game and I just hope I can forget about this.

"We had a good run going but we all know Gary Gait's the greatest player of all time and it was a matter of time before he got it going and we didn't respond."

Just as Gait got going, the sun came out and it seemed even Mother Nature wanted him to enjoy his swan song.

"He's had a storybook career since he was 17 years old," Canadian head coach Frank Nielsen said. "Him and his (twin) brother Paul, they've won everything there is to win in this game and for him to come back and finish with this . . . ."

Yes, it's amazing.

The U.S. started with Trevor Tierney in goal and made their usual switch to Chris Garrity for the second half but went back to Tierney for the fourth quarter.

Tierney's father Bill and American attacker Scott Urick's dad Dave both were former coaches of the national team and won the world title -- Bill Tierney in 1998 in Baltimore and Dave Urick in 1986 in Toronto.

The first goal of the game didn't come until 9:50 into the first quarter, when Ryan Powell struck for a power-play marker. The U.S. led 5-3 late in the second quarter but an inspired Canada rallied for three straight goals and Toronto Rock's Colin Doyle, a Waterloo native, scored 2:18 before halftime to give the home side its first lead -- 6-5.

Earlier in the day, Australia beat the Iroquois Nationals 21-8 to claim the bronze medal. Aussie attack star Brendan Mundorf scored six goals to lead the barrage.


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