From Neil Stevens/Canadian Men's Lacrosse Team
Rory Smith had never played a game of lacrosse for Canada and he hadn’t scored a goal anywhere in seven years.
He got both done Monday when he pulled on the red and white for the first time and produced a highlight reel beauty in a 26-2 world indoor tournament victory over Australia that boosted Canada’s record to 2-0.
It was all planned. His teammates had told him they’d get him the ball for a scoring chance and the stay-at-home defenceman devoured the opportunity when Jeff Moleski tossed it to him early in the second half. He took off.
Smith dashed to the crease, leapt into the air and extended his stick to swing the ball into the net for his first goal since he played Jr. B in Toronto’s Mimico neighbourhood seven years ago. The ball entered the net just before his slammed chest first into the green carpet. He jumped up, bent to one knee and cocked his right arm in celebration.
``I had that move planned for a while now,’’ he said. ``I used a dive-across-drag move.
``The whole team helped me get that goal and it was awesome.’’
His teammates gave him a rousing welcome back to the bench as the arena announcer called out his name as the goal scorer. In the stands, Rory’s brothers Brendan, in from Wisconsin, and Reilly, who travelled all the way from school at Miami of Ohio, yelled as loud as they were able.
``I was so excited for him,’’ said fellow defenceman Bill Greer. ``We talked about it earlier today. He said today he felt he was ready to do it. I know from playing with Rory that he’s wanted one for a long time now. I was pumped for him. And it was one of the nicest goals of the day. It was a beauty. We’re proud of him. Hopefully it doesn’t take him as long to get his next one.’’
Will it go to his head? Will he try to score every time he touches the ball now?
``I hope not,’’ said Greer.
Canada had quarter leads of 9-1, 17-1 and 20-1.
Dan Dawson and Stephane Leblanc scored five goals each, Jeff Zywicki got four, Jordan Hall and John Grant Jr. got three each, Shawn Evans and Colin Doyle had two each and Smith and Moleski got one each.
Tyler Richards was in Canada’s net for the first quarter and Anthony Cosmo went the rest of the way.
``It was a good win,’’ said Smith, who was a healthy scratch the previous day when Canada beat Slovakia. ``We stayed on our game plan and didn’t let up. It was a nice solid win.’’
The Aussies were no match skills-wise but can hack as well as anybody.
``They’re tough,’’ said Smith.
Canada completes round-robin play in its pool Tuesday against England.
``One more win and we’ll get a couple of days off,’’ said Smith. ``We’ll get some ice on the bodies and it’ll be good.’’
Dawson was a late arrival and didn’t play Sunday either.
``I wanted to get a good sweat on and get into some contact to get the body used to the rough and tough international play,’’ he said. ``It was about getting the body loose and getting a good sweat on.’’
He likes what he sees.
``We’re trying to get better every game, working the systems and making sure everybody gets a touch on offence,’’ he said. ``Everyone is buying in.
``It was a great effort. We’re going to enjoy this win but stay focused. We’re taking it one game at a time and everything we’re doing this week is striving to be better every day.’’
Aussie forward Jeff Joy watched Canada put on a show of firepower that he and his mates could not come close to matching.
``Unbelievable stick skills,’’ he said when asked to assess the Canadians. ``They taught us a lesson in the indoor game.
``We tried hard all game. We’re still learning the indoor game. We’re mainly all field guys. This team is a mix of some guys who have been in the world indoors before and some new guys. It was good to get out there and line up against John Grant Jr. and Dawson. It was kind of a clinic for us.’’
Defenceman Brett Mydske, another national team newcomer, so solid again for Canada.
``They were a lot more aggressive than Slovakia,’’ he said of the Aussies. ``Their pick and roll game was better so it was good preparation for us for our next game.’’
Defenceman Kyle Rubisch also impressed.
``That team worked hard but they’re not up to our level,’’ he said. ``They’re scrappy and work and never quit. You have to admire their will. They tried to push us as much as they could. You want to compete hard because you know they’re trying their best and trying to grow the sport in their country.’’
It’s been a while since Grant played in a similar arena. It’s an old 4,900-capacity arena that was one-half full when he made his first appearance of the tournament.
``It was good to get out here with what I consider to be the best players in the world,’’ Grant said in a small and steamy dressing room that has decades-old wooden benches for the players. ``I was excited to play.
``The building reminds me of Northcrest Arena in Peterborough. It’s nice and spicey in here.’’
The lighting is dimmer than that of arenas the players are used to back home.
``It’s not the brightest arena in the world,’’ said Hall. ``The one side is standing room only, which I’ve never seen before. The heat reminds me a little of home in August, that’s for sure. But they’ve got a great turf field. It’s a good facility and I’m just happy to be here playing with these guys.’’
Head coach Ed Comeau has no complaints to this point.
``We wanted to go out there and play hard and once again we did that,’’ he said. ``The Aussies, as they always do, worked real hard. We had some good opportunities and buried our chances. We’ll continue to try to get better each time out.’’
Smith’s goal was the icing on Monday’s cake.
``Seven years since his last goal, that’s great for Rory,’’ said Comeau. ``The quality of the goal was certainly shocking to a lot of guys on our bench. He looked like a seasoned offensive player scoring. So we’re happy for Rory that he was able to score his first goal in seven years with a Team Canada jersey on. It’s great for him and his family here watching him as well.’’
Moleski, cornered, was asked to explain why the defence allowed twice as many goals as the first game.
``They were a little better team, a little quicker, and they had some guys who could shoot the ball,’’ he said. ``They made a couple of good plays and kudos to them. Good on their part for getting a couple by us.’’
He wouldn’t admit to being jealous of Smith for scoring a goal prettier than his.
``Smith had a great game,’’ said Moleski. ``That was a goal scorer’s goal.’’
In an earlier game, England got six goals from Tom Johnson of Delta, B.C., and improved to 2-0 in the pool with a 24-7 win over Slovakia. Canada plays England on Tuesday to decide who finishes first and gets a bye to the Friday semifinals.