Team Canada capped a perfect run in the 2018 World Jr. Lacrosse Championship with a 15-10 win over the Iroquois Nation in the gold medal game played at SaskTel Centre on Sunday, August 12.
Canada started the tournament with a dominant 26-9 win over Iroquois on Wednesday, August 8. That game was not an indication of the ability of the Iroquois squad, since the team was without a number of key players because of flight problems coming from Toronto.
On Thursday, the Iroquois had a full squad and rebounded nicely with a 25-9 win over USA.
The USA battled hard against Canada in the Friday night game for three quarters before the host squad pulled away in the fourth quarter, earning a 16-7 victory and setting up the exciting final between Canada and Iroquois.
Both teams came out flying. Canada started the contest with a three goal run. Mitch Linklater, Colin Berglof, and Kyle Dawson were the goal scorers.
The Iroquois answered with two goals midway through the quarter from Aaron Greyeyes and Tyler Brown. Greyeyes was one of the Saskatchewan SWAT players on the Iroquois squad.
His goal was highlight material as he broke from the corner and soared through the air before burying a backhand whip shot. Brad Lyons responded for Canada to end the quarter.
Canada continued their scoring ways in the second with two early goals from Brendan Szabo and Haiden Dickson, causing the Iroquois coach to call a time-out to halt the momentum. That strategy worked as the Iroquois went on a three goal run of their own with goals by David Anderson, Tyler Brown, and Nonkon Thompson, reducing Canada’s lead to 6-5.
Canada dominated the third quarter, holding Iroquois scoreless while scoring four. Brad Lyons scored a pair, while Tanner Buck and Kyle Dawson both found the back of the net, giving Canada a 10-5 lead.
The Iroquois wouldn’t give in, going on a four goal run to start the fourth. Blaze White and Kainen Francis each scored singles while Marshall Powless had two, making it a one-goal game again.
Canada’s Brenden Szabo halted the run as he took a long pass from goalie Brody Harris to score on a breakaway. The pair are teammates from B.C.’s Delta Islanders and it was a play they no doubt had done many times.
Canada’s Matthew Wright scored quickly after the ensuing face-off. That was followed by goals from Haiden Dickson, and Kyle Dziwenka.
Marshall Powless would score his third of the quarter before Szabo buried an empty netter to seal the win.
Amid the post-game celebrations, Team Canada assistant captain Colin Berglof was ecstatic.
“I feel amazing; on Cloud Nine right now, couldn’t ask for better outcome, coming home with gold,” he said.
Berglof shared how special it was to win in his hometown, and on the same floor that the NLL Rush won their championship in June.
“This is where the pros play, where the idols play.”
He said it required a complete team effort to defeat such a talented opponent.
“They have a really high-powered offence. Brody Harris (goalie) was lockdown tonight. Defence was strong and on offence we just had to keep it simple, run our offence and swing the ball. It worked out in the end.”
Berglof went on to explain how Canada dealt with the Iroquios, battling back to get within one goal; first at the end of the second quarter and also in the beginning of the fourth quarter.
“No highs and lows. We just had to stay positive on the bench, and get back to the basics,” he said.
When asked what the future holds, Berglof indicated he was going to enjoy the championship and then get ready for hockey season (with the Delisle Chiefs). Then he looks forward to his final year with the Saskatchewan SWAT and helping that team push for a berth in the Minto Cup, the Canadian Junior A National Lacrosse Championship. When talking about the work of his SWAT teammates who played in the tournament, Berglof had high praise.
“When guys got in they played unreal. It just shows how much lacrosse has grown in Saskatchewan. It is leaps and bounds from where it used to be. There is a lot to look forward to in the future,” he said.
One of the brightest up and coming talents is Warman native, SWAT goalie Laine Hruska.
As a 16-year-old Hruska was a second team all-star and received the Rocky Mountain Junior Lacrosse League Rookie of the Year award last season, earning his spot on Canada’s roster.
Despite being one of the younger players in the World Championships, Hruska looked right at home in the times he played.
Hruska is set to gain further experience against top competition as a pick-up playing for the Calgary Mountaineers in the upcoming Minto Cup, which will be hosted by Calgary from August 16-26.