Curtis Dickson scored GWG for Team Canada in 9-8 World Lax 2014 win over Iroquois Nationals. (Photo: Scott McCall/US Lacrosse)
Reeling after allowing five unanswered goals, Team Canada needed a hero on Sunday night to keep their perfect all-time record against the upstart Iroquois Nationals intact. And right on cue, Curtis "Superman" Dickson saved the day by scoring the game-winner with 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter to break an 8-8 tie and cap off one of the best international field lacrosse games ever played.
With the last-second win before a sold-out crowd, Canada improved to 2-1 in the 2014 FIL World Lacrosse Championships and kept pace with the Iroquois (2-1) in the Blue Division standings by handing them their first loss in a classic contest that featured almost two dozen National Lacrosse League stars.
Lyle Thompson, the youngest brother of Edmonton Rush standout Jeremy Thompson, opened the scoring for the Nationals 1:47 into the game. But the rest of the first quarter was all Canada as they scored the next five goals, including two by Colorado Mammoth scorer Adam Jones and another by Edmonton Rush phenom Mark Matthews, to make it 5-1 after 20 minutes of play. Dickson added the only tally of the second quarter as the Canadians took a comfortable 6-1 lead into half, in part by taking advantage of the Iroquois' penalty troubles.
Less than a minute into the third quarter, Rochester Knighthawks star Cody Jamieson, the NLL's scoring champ and one of three league MVP finalists, finally stopped the Canada run with a goal before another Nationals marker cut the lead to 6-3.
But Dickson's brilliance, often highlighted with his heroics for the Calgary Roughnecks in the NLL, shined through once again as he scored an incredible diving "Air Gait" from behind the net. NLL prospect Jeremy Noble, who joins his brother Jason (Minnesota Swarm) on the team, then added a goal to bring the Canadian lead back up to five and the game seemingly in control at 8-3.
But with less than three minutes left in the third, the Iroquois run began with a goal from Syracuse University's Randy Staats, a player to keep an eye on over the next couple years as the next potential NLL star from the Orange program. With two goals by Lyle Thompson in a little over three minutes to start the fourth, the Nationals had surged to make it 8-6. And with the crowd willing them on, the lead was cut to one over four minutes later after a trademark rocket from Rochester Knighthawks sharpshooter Craig Point with the extra man offense on the field.
A few minutes later, the improbable comeback was complete when Staats scored his second goal, the team's second-straight extra-man conversion, with 8:19 remaining to tie the contest, much to the delight of the crowd favoring the underdog.
The teams traded chances over the later part of the nailbiting fourth. And after a disputed violation turnover by the Nationals, the Canadians held the ball for one of the game's final possessions. In the clutch, Dickson got the ball down low and finished the play with his third goal of the night to retake the lead. Canada would not relinquish it as they won the following faceoff and ran the last seconds off the clock before tempers flared and players mixed it up with the emotional game already decided.
Of the many plays that didn't make the scoresheet but highlighted the intensity and talent abundant on both rosters, two sequences really stood out. Team Canada close defender Matt Vinc, one of the NLL's elite goalies and reigning NLL Goaltender of the Year with the Knighthawks, couldn't help himself when he joined Canada goalie Dillon Ward (Colorado Mammoth) in net to make a big desperation save in the first half.
“It was a step in the right direction,” Vinc said. “We had to hold off a very strong Iroquois team. It was a tough win, but that is what you need in a short tournament like this. Great team win.”
Later on, the lacrosse community witnessed one of the most creative and spectacular moves in recent memory when Lyle Thompson switched his stick behind his back from one hand to another before firing a shot that just missed. Lyle, who broke the NCAA Division I scoring record as a junior with the University of Albany this past season, was a co-winner of the Tewaaraton Award with his brother Miles to help the Thompson brothers continue their iconic rise within the sport.
Canada next takes on Japan on Monday at 4 p.m. ET before finishing group play vs. Australia on Tuesday at 10 p.m. Meanwhile, the Nationals square off with the Aussies on Monday at 10 p.m. before battling the undefeated United States (3-0) live on ESPNU and ESPN3 on Tuesday at 7 p.m. And before their highly-anticipated matchup with the Nationals, Team USA must first play England on Monday at 7 p.m.
If the standings hold, the Nationals would likely face Canada for a rematch in the knockout stage to add another chapter onto what has quickly become a storybook rivalry.
"We talk about being better every time we're out there together,” Jamieson said. “We have to take the next step and start putting more minutes together.”
NLL players on Team Canada
Kyle Rubisch (Edmonton Rush)
Jesse Gamble (Toronto Rock)
Brodie Merrill (Philadelphia Wings)
Cam Flint (Minnesota Swarm)
Cameron Holding (Colorado Mammoth)
Kevin Crowley (Philadelphia Wings)
Adam Jones (Colorado Mammoth)
Jordan MacIntosh (Minnesota Swarm)
Geoff Snider (Calgary Roughnecks)
Dillon Ward (Colorado Mammoth)
Mark Matthews (Edmonton Rush)
Jordan Hall (Philadelphia Wings)
Jason Noble (Minnesota Swarm)
Matt Vinc (Rochester Knighthawks)
Curtis Dickson (Calgary Roughnecks)
Zack Greer (Edmonton Rush)
NLL players on Iroquois Nationals
Cody Jamieson (Rochester Knighthawks)
Sid Smith (Rochester Knighthawks)
Brett Bucktooth (Vancouver Stealth)
Jeremy Thompson (Edmonton Rush)
Jeff Shattler (Calgary Roughnecks)
Craig Point (Rochester Knighthawks)
NLL players on Team USA
Mitch Belisle (Minnesota Swarm)
Garrett Thul (Philadelphia Wings)