The NLL will be well-represented when Iroquois Nationals and Team Canada face off for an exhibition in Montreal on Sunday.
The National Lacrosse League will be well-represented when Team Canada faces off with the Iroquois Nationals for an international exhibition in Quebec at Bell Centre, home of the NHL's Montreal Canadiens, on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. ET.
The Rochester Knighthawks will have a league-high seven members of their team playing in the game while the Philadelphia Wings and Toronto Rock will each have four players featured in the friendly.
“I'm honored and very excited. It’s a great opportunity to showcase lacrosse and anytime you can play for your country it’s that much more special,” said Knighthawks and Team Canada forward Cory Vitarelli. “I'm looking forward to it and can’t wait to represent Canada.”
Vitarelli will join teammates Matt Vinc, and Paul and Dan Dawson on Team Canada, as they battle the Iroquois Nationals and Knighthawks teammates Sid Smith, Johnny Powless and Angus Goodleaf on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. The game will feature the top two teams from the 2011 FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Ticket information and prices are available at evenko.ca.
Dan Dawson, who won his first Champion’s Cup in 2013 with the Knighthawks, will serve as the team captain for Team Canada. The Oakville native and former NLL MVP headlines a Canadian Team that also features Kevin Crowley (Philadelphia), Stephan LeBlanc (Toronto), Sandy Chapman (Toronto), Jordan Hall (Philadelphia), Shawn Evans (Calgary), Brodie Merrill (Philadelphia) and Patrick Merrill (Toronto).
“I have been fortunate to play for my country a couple of times. For the coaching staff to ask me to be the captain is an honor,” said Dawson. “I have to make sure I wear the maple leaf with pride and do everything in my power to lead the troops to a good game.”
Defenseman Paul Dawson will join his older brother in Montreal after receiving the call today to play for Team Canada. It has been an incredible week for Dawson, who re-signed with the Knighthawks for four more seasons on Monday.
“I'm honored and thrilled. I think it’s a dream of every kid growing up to don the maple leaf. It has always been a dream of mine,” he said. “I can't wait for the opportunity to play and hope its leads to more chances.”
Backstopping the Canadian effort will be Matt Vinc, who led the NLL in saves, save percentage and goals-against average in 2013. Vinc set the NLL single-season saves record (662) in 2013 en route to a league-record third Goaltender of the Year Award (2010, 2011 and 2013). Vinc also joined Dallas Eliuk as the only other goalie to lead the NLL in saves four times. The St. Catharines, Ontario native was honored as an NLL All-Pro for the fourth time in his career and named the Knighthawks’ MVP for the second time. More importantly, he won his second straight Champion’s Cup.
On Sunday, he will play in the same arena that his idol Patrick Roy once starred in for the Montreal Canadiens. Playing for Team Canada in the home of his favorite NHL team makes the game even more meaningful for Vinc.
“I'm really excited to play in the Bell Centre and in this historic sports city,” said Vinc. “As a child, I dreamt of playing for my country and standing in that crease.”
Sunday is the first meeting between Canada and the Iroquois Nationals since the 2011 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships, which were held in Prague. Canada downed the Iroquois 13-6 behind a 23-save effort from Vinc to win the gold medal.
The next World Indoor Lacrosse Championships are set for Onondaga Nation (Syracuse, NY) and Buffalo, NY from September 18 through 26, 2015. It marks the first time the event will be played on indigenous land.
“We are hosting in 2015, which is something very special and unique. Our younger guys are going to learn a lot and it gives us a chance to develop players and prepare for 2015,” said Iroquois General Manager Gewas Schindler about Sunday’s game. “It’s a great chance to play again and bring the team together, and see Canada’s new, young roster.”
The Iroquois are fresh off a 24-11 victory of the U.S. Indoor Developmental Team in the Bowhunter Cup. The Nationals roster will feature three members of the Knighthawks, including Powless, who recorded six points (2+4) in his second Bowhunter Cup.
“I'm very excited to play at the Bell Centre on Sunday. It will be a good experience to play against team Canada,” said Powless, who has won two Champion’s Cups in his first two seasons of professional lacrosse.
The Iroquois goaltending until will include NLL star Mikey Thompson and Knighthawks netminder Angus Goodleaf. Both goalies were members of the silver-medal winning Iroquois squad from 2011. Goodleaf won his first Champion’s Cup in 2013 after signing with Rochester as a free agent. Now he gets an opportunity to play for the Iroquois in Montreal, which is less than a 20-minute drive from his hometown of Kahnawake.
“I'm pretty pumped. I get to play with some hometown guys that I haven't played with since minors. I also get the chance to play in front of family and friends that haven't been able to see the game played at that level,” said Goodleaf.
The Iroquois Nationals will also field a roster that includes NLL standouts Roger Vyse (Toronto), Jeff Shattler (Calgary), Jeremy Thompson (Edmonton), Brett Bucktooth (Vancouver) and Brandon Francis (Philadelphia). The Nationals will also showcase young, talented players like Randy Staats, Vaughn Harris and Wenster Green.
“It’s quite an achievement to have four of our core players make the national team,” said Team President Michael French. “We are proud of Brodie, Brandon, Jordan, and Kevin as they represent the Wings and gain international experience.”
One of the players tasked with bringing the team together is Knighthawks Team Captain Sid Smith, who serves in the same capacity with the Iroquois Nationals. Smith has been named Top Defenseman and All-World at the past two FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Not to mention, he has raised the Champion’s Cup the past two seasons.
“Sid Smith has been our captain and will continue in that role because of his leadership on and off the floor,” said Schindler. “He has proven he is a high-level player in professional and international lacrosse. He leads by example and gets it done. He is an irreplaceable member of our team.”