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Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois Nationals score silver at games

A Iroquois Nationals player tangles with one from the Canadian lacrosse team. Photo from World Indoor Lacrosse Championship / Facebook

Almost for the Iroquois Nationals
By Doug George-Kanentiio

The Iroquois Nationals are secure in their position as the second best box lacrosse team in the world. At the just concluded World Indoor Lacrosse Championship, held on Onondaga Territory, the team came in second to the Canadians (final score 12-8), a repeat of the 2011, 2007 and 2003 tournaments.

The Onondaga Nation had done an exceptional job serving as hosts for the 13 nations competing in the tournament. Teams came from Israel, Turkey, Serbia, Czech Republic, Germany, Finland, England, Australia, Ireland, the United States, Switzerland, Canada and host team the Iroquois Nationals.

Canada went through the preliminaries with ease, being tested only by the Iroquois Nationals last week in a game which was determined not by the players but the referees who, when the Iroquois took a 10-9 lead, decided on a very late whistle to contest the goal but only after heated debate.

It is standard in games of this kind to uphold the goal if there is no obvious and compelling evidence to reverse the initial call and in that case the Iroquois had scored while some of their players were stepping into their section of the box and were not in any way involved in the play.

The referee who made that game changing call realized his act was controversial when he hid behind the other refs. They did not use replay and even if they did there was nothing to indicate other than a clean goal yet that was denied. In addition, the Iroquois were assessed a two minute penalty in which the Canadians scored.

An Iroquois Nationals reacts during the final game of the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship on September 28, 2015. Photo from Iroquois Nationals / Facebook

The second meeting between the teams was, as many predicted, for the gold. The match was even, hard played and marked by spectacular saves by both goalies. Yet there was a nervousness that this game would also fall into the hands of the referees and against the Natives.

It did just that in the fourth period as the Iroquois had momentum and scored on a shot where the ball dribbled into the Canada net-no "too many men", no "inside the crease" but the Canadians immediately complained. The replays on the big screen had the fans puzzled as the goal was clean and clear but a referee, after initially raising his hands to affirm the goal was called to a session with the other two and after much debate, which in itself should have confirmed the goal as legitimate, the refs rejected the score followed by a penalty against the Iroquois.

The game changed from that point on. The Canadians exploited another highly controversial moment when the teams were clustered in the Canadian zone, a ref blew his whistle for stoppage and then, when a Canadian forward was 3/4 down the floor, blew it again, giving the player a clear break away in which he scored-that one effectively broke the Iroquois back.

The Canadians adopted a man-to-man defense concentrating on the Thompson brothers. Whenever they touched the ball they were swarmed by defensemen who pushed them off into corners and preventing fast breaks and cuts in from of the net. The Iroquois took far more shots but many were low percentage ones from 30 feet away.

The Canadian goalie was exceptional stonewalling the Iroquois for most of the last two periods. The Canadians formed a solid wall around their goal and were content to let the Iroquois use their superior stick handling to pass back and forth, looking for that crack which rarely opened for them.

The Iroquois were considerable smaller than the Canadians whose tactic was to concentrate on a stifling defense. Their shooters got very lucky with a few easy long range scores, something which evaded the faster Iroquois. The Nationals greatly improved their defense from last week but a few dropped passes and the aggressive Canadian checking caused them to lose the ball. The Canadians exploited these lapses and scored easy goals.

The Onondaga Nation was expecting better -- that this was the year the Iroquois would come out on top. They had every reason to be optimistic with a team of All Americans, Canadian National champions and a home site at the Carrier Dome with over 12,000 fans on their side. They had spent over $10 million to ensure that the Iroquois, all of us, are seen by the world in the best light possible. They accomplished this.

Not now, however. Perhaps in four years and with a team which will be very different than this one which was built on offense and speed. If the Iroquois are to defeat the Canadians they must concentrate on defense and goaltending for the only way to beat the Canadians is by pounding them into the ground and into the boards the, drive them out of the Iroquois zone. The Iroquois dominance has to be so complete those bad calls which come their way will not effect the outcome.

The Onondaga Nation successfully organized a tournament of historic standards, one which should lead to the return of lacrosse to the Olympics. When that happens they should march into the stadium as reigning WILC champs.

Doug George-Kanentiio is an Akwesasne Mohawk currently residing on Oneida Territory with his wife Joanne Shenandoah.

Related Stories:
Doug George-Kanentiio: A historic opening for lacrosse games (9/24)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Onondaga Nation hosts lacrosse games (9/22)
Doug George-Kanentiio: In the golden era of Iroquois lacrosse (08/12)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois Nationals make sports history (07/18)

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