HAMILTON, ON – The undercard for the Heritage Cup on Saturday featured the future stars of Canada and the Haudenosaunee. In the U17 Showcase, Team Canada defeated the Iroquois Nationals, 25-7, at the FirstOntario Centre in downtown Hamilton, Ontario.
The victory was the first of two for Canada, as the senior men’s team took care of Team USA 19-6 later in the evening.
Having the U17 game become a part of the annual event will certainly go a long way in growing the indoor game internationally at the younger age levels.
“It’s great if we can build it up to a U17 or U19 tournament, whatever the case may be,” said Team Canada U17 head coach Josh Sanderson. “For these guys to be able to put on that jersey and battle in front of over 5,000 people is great for them and they are only going to get better from it.”
Iroquois Nationals U17 head coach Jim Barnes shared that sentiment as he recapped his team’s experience in the game.
“It was amazing,” he said. “For these young men to be able to go out and play against Team Canada, in an atmosphere like this, was special.
The Iroquois played its best lacrosse in the third quarter, scoring five times. Landon General scored two, while Shendon Smith, Mason Hill and Nicholas Tremblay netted one each.
The Canadians, however, controlled play from start to finish, jumping out to a 9-1 lead after the first quarter. Justin Sykes got the offense going early as he opened the scoring with back-to-back goals just 1:20 into the contest, completing the hat trick at 11:10.
Having the opportunity to represent Canada was a proud moment for the Oakville, Ontario native.
“It’s just an honour being able to play with all the best guys from around the provinces, and being able to represent my country,” he said.
Canada’s U17 squad featured 20 of the best midget-aged players in the country, including nine from Alberta, eight from Ontario, and one each from British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Quebec.
Roman Smoot, who hails from Sherwood Park, Alberta, also expressed his appreciation for being selected to play in such a prestigious event.
“It’s probably one of the best feelings I have ever had,” he said. “I remember when my mom called me and she told me I made. I don’t think I slept for two days. I was super excited.”
Smoot began playing lacrosse a bit later than most, picking up the game in fourth grade after watching the Edmonton Rush. On Saturday, Smoot not only had a chance to play against the Iroquois, but he had the opportunity to watch his favorite player, Mark Matthews.
“That’s what I want to be one day,” said Smoot, who wears Matthews’ No. 42. “He’s not the fast guy and he is not the super agile guy, but – in my mind – he is the most impactful player on the floor. That’s something I really aspire to do.”
Saturday’s game was only the third international U17 event, with Canada and the Haudenosaunee having previously played one another at the 2013 Heritage Cup in Montreal, as well in a pair of games during the 2015 FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championship on the Onondaga Nation.