Canada Makes History, Downs U.S. U19 Men in OT
TURKU, Finland – Chad Tutton stood in his all red warmup suit and prepared to answer a few questions. "My heart is still pounding," he said.
It was about 25 minutes after Canada downed the U.S. under-19 men's national team 11-9 in overtime in a back-and-forth, thrilling and history-making pool play game Saturday night at the Federation of International Lacrosse U19 World Championships in Finland.
In front of a packed house in Finland, Canada became the
first team to beat the U.S. under-19 men's national team since U19
international competition was sanctioned in 1988.
Tutton, a rising sophomore midfielder for North Carolina, tallied what held up as the game-winner with 2:01 left in the second of two mandatory four-minute overtime periods, per international rules. But that was just the cap on a game that's direction twisted and turned on every faceoff and left an overflow crowd of an estimated 1,200 spectators buzzing.
First, the history: Canada became the first team to defeat the U.S. in U19 play since international competition was sanctioned in 1988. The U.S., winners of all six gold medals contested since then, is now 37-1 all-time.
"It's great to move past that milestone," Canadian head coach Taylor Wray said, "but we felt we were going to be competitive heading into this thing."
But how they did it: The Canadians scored the final three goals of the game, all in the second OT, after the U.S. rallied from three goals down at the start of the fourth quarter and went ahead by one in the first OT. All while the crowd oohed and ahhed and pressure mounted. At one point, dueling "U-S-A!" and "Ca-na-da!" chants broke out from the stands at a packed Yläkenttä Stadium.
"It's indescribable," Tutton said. "The team played awesome. There's definitely some nerves there, but the coaches made sure we kept our composure and stayed calm."
Down 7-4 at the start of the fourth, the U.S. tied the game on consecutive goals by Sean Mahon, Matt Kavanagh and Danny Eipp, the last of which game on a 6-on-4 chance with 9:28 left in regulation. Tutton put Canada back ahead 8-7 with 5:20 to go before Ryan Tucker tied the game again at 8 on a 12-yard overhand shot from the right alley with 38 seconds remaining in the fourth. On the play, coming out of a timeout, Tucker got free off a Kavanagh pick.
Steve Pontrello scored from Kavanagh on a man-up play with 1:21 left in the first extra-period to put the U.S. up 9-8. Charlie Raffa won the opening faceoff of the second OT, but the U.S. was called for offsides shortly thereafter and Canada regained possession. Wes Berg drove left to right along goal-line extended and finished on the crease with 2:23 remaining in the second extra-period to tie it at 9. Berg drew a penalty at the tail end of the scoring play, and Tutton put Canada up 10-9 just 22 seconds later.
Canada's Zach Currier won the ensuing faceoff on procedure, and Reilly O'Connor tacked on another goal with 1:02 left. Currier won another draw and the Canadians were able to run out the clock.
Canada improves to 2-0 in pool play with a quick turnaround for a 1 p.m. (6 a.m. EST) game Sunday against the Iroquois (1-0). The U.S. (1-1) faces England at 7 p.m. (noon EST) on Sunday, and now faces a scenario of playing the Iroquois in the tournament semifinals if expectations hold.
"I'm really proud of our guys for coming back the way they did," USA coach Tim Flynn said. "They pulled together as a team. ... I think we showed our heart, and we learned some things. We'll play again another day."
The faceoff battle went back-and-forth. Canada won five straight draws in the second quarter, had the ground ball edge and played with a deliberate pace, drawing several stall warnings, to lead 6-3 at halftime. But the U.S. won 7 of 9 second-half faceoffs as it rallied to tie. Raffa won six straight to end the second half, but Currier won 4 of 5 in overtime. When the U.S. struggled controlling possession, it wasn't because it didn't win the faceoff initially, but failed to scoop the ground ball to maintain control.
"Our guys did a nice job of tying them up and scrapping for ground balls," Wray said. "For us, face off is a ground ball between two competitors. We're going to get in there and we're going to scrap and fight and hopefully win the majority of the possessions."
Both teams had several man-up chances with Canada taking nine penalties and the U.S. drawing four. The key offsides call against the U.S., which came on a late substation early in the second overtime, proved crucial, as it stunted the momentum built in the fourth quarter and the first OT period.
"We had a lot of emotion going into overtime, and that's one of the reasons we had that first goal [in OT]," Tucker said. "We came off the bench flying. ... Unfortunately, it's not sudden-death so they came back and scored three. It was a bizarre call, the offsides, I didn't really see what was going on. That was definitely a change in momentum."
Kavanagh led all scorers with two goals and two assists, and Tucker finished with two goals and one assist and Mahon scored twice in the second half. Zach Oliveri played the first half in net for the USA, making seven saves. Kyle Turri made four saves in the second half, including a point-blank stop on Tutton. Tutton, Berg, O'Connor and Dan Litner each had two goals for Canada while Brennan Donville had 11 saves.
The win could be considered a confirmation of a trend that has taken shape in the NCAA Division I men's game of north-of-the-border products making a big impact. Berg was the ECAC's rookie of the year after his first season at Denver this year. Tutton carved out a role amongst the Tar Heels' talented roster as a freshman and Jesse King (Ohio State) was the Buckeyes' second leading scorer. Now, they've made a huge mark in the international timeline.
When asked about Berg and Tutton's impact on Saturday's game, Wray said: "Those guys are big-time players. They've played in big games at the college level. Wes Berg is the captain of this team for a reason. He's poised under pressure. He makes big plays when things matter the most, and he made a pretty big one there at the end. All of our offensive players I thought were very poised as the game got really tense in the last couple minutes."
With history now made, players on both sides talked like they expected to see each other again in next Saturday's championship game, should all go according to plan.
"We're all on a bit of a high right now," Tutton said. "But we're trying to keep our composure. It's just a small step to our final goal here. We haven't won nothing yet."
Tucker, for one, said he wants to play Canada again "more than you will ever know. I hope we see them for the championship game."
For now, they'll have a classic game to rest upon for at least one night.
"The atmosphere was crazy; packed crowd. It's exactly what you think about when you're playing Canada and trying to make this team," U.S. defenseman and co-captain Stephen Jahelka said. "We're going to figure out tonight what we did wrong that we could have done better and also think about what we did do well. It's definitely not the last time we're going to see them."
Federation of International Lacrosse U19 World Championships
CAN 3 3 1 1 0 3 – 11
USA 1 2 1 4 1 0 – 9
Goals: CAN – Litner 2, Berg 2, O'Connor
2, Tutton 2, Comeault 1, King 1, Tinney 1; USA – Kavanagh 2,
Tucker 2, Mahon 2, Buczek 1, Eipp 1, Pontrello 1
Assists: CAN – Evans 2; USA – Kavanagh 2, Tucker 1, Eipp 1, Leonard 1
Saves: CAN - Donville 11; USA – Oliveri 7, Turri 4