United States Falls to Canada in The World Games Gold Medal Game


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Jack Kelly’s knees were both wrapped with ice. There was another bag of ice wrapped around his midsection, covered by his sweat-soaked navy No. 31 jersey.

Battered and a little bruised after a 23-9 defeat at the hands of Canada in the gold medal men’s Sixes match of The World Games on Tuesday night at PNC Field, Kelly slowly made his way to the fans who remained after the medal presentation.

“I have to go sign some autographs,” he said.

Kelly was the consummate pro, smiling and taking pictures with the droves of young fans. Some were experiencing lacrosse for the first time. Others were spirited members of the handful of leagues and teams sprinkled throughout the greater Birmingham area.

“There were a couple roars in the crowd that were really, really loud,” Kelly said. “The game is really up and down, so there’s a lot of action on one end, and then all of a sudden, someone’s making an incredible play on the other end. And that can happen in less than five seconds. It’s a really exciting version of lacrosse. I’m excited to see where this will go. Hopefully to the Olympics.”

The Sixes discipline moves fast, and Canada seemed to make it move even faster. The U.S. mustered just 18 shots on goal and corralled eight fewer ground balls in the loss, struggling to gain any footing against a Canadian team that leaned heavily on its box principles and indoor stars like Josh Byrne, Dhane Smith, Jeff Teat and Zach Currier, just to name a few.

U.S. coach Andy Shay thinks it’s an oversimplification to say that box players inherently have the upper hand in Sixes. He said Canada’s team was simply special.

“I think it would be very easy to say, ‘Yeah, it’s just because they’re great at box.’ But that is a very impressive team,” Shay said. “What they did was surgical.”

Canada, which ran roughshod through the competition in Birmingham by scoring 117 goals in five games, started like it was shot from a cannon. Twice Currier leaked out in transition to score uncontested goals, staking Canada to a fast 2-0 lead.

Brian Tevlin netted the first goal for the U.S. three minutes in, but the U.S. wouldn’t score again until Ryan Tierney’s goal with 5:50 left in the first half. By that time, Canada led 7-2. It was 14-4 after Byrne’s goal on the doorstep and 14-5 at halftime after Zach Goodrich scored for the U.S.

Kelly was continuously tested with shots near the crease, as the Canadian offense utilized pick-and-rolls and quick inside passing for high percentage looks. Currier scored five times, while Byrne and Teat each scored four times. Canada shot 22-for-33 from the field compared to 9-for-30 for the U.S.

“These guys are all box players in the NLL, and they’re used to working in that tight format and setup,” Kelly said. “They have a net that is two feet higher and two feet wider to shoot at in this format, so it’s really, really challenging to defend.”

The U.S. showed signs of life in the third quarter. Goodrich, the only U.S. player with multiple goals, scored in a man-down situation to make it 16-6, and then a yellow card on Currier opened the door for consecutive man-up goals by Colin Heacock and Connor Kirst to make it 16-8.

But Canada answered with the final four goals of the period.

For Kelly, who made seven saves, it was a disappointing end to a standout tournament and his re-emergence as a starting goalie for a U.S. national team. After a devastating knee injury in 2018 in Netanya, Israel, at the World Lacrosse Men’s Championship, Kelly contemplated calling it quits.

He persevered and was an emotional and on-field leader for the Sixes team. As was Adam Ghitelman, whose gritty defense and communication sparked the U.S. transition multiple times throughout the tournament.

“It was an honor,” Shay said to Ghitelman as they embraced after the game.

“You never know when you’re going to be able to put [on a U.S. jersey again], or if you ever are,” Kelly said. “I think everybody in that locker room, coaches included, really cherishes the opportunity to represent our country.”


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