The score, in favour of the home team, was a little lopsided.
Two lacrosse teams from opposite sides of the world joined to build relationships and experience in the language of lacrosse.
The Armstrong Shamrocks hosted Team Slovakia Sept. 16 at the historic Hassen Memorial Arena in an international friendly in advance of the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships, currently underway in Langley.
Team Slovakia arrived mid-afternoon and enjoyed a light throw around practice before a light dinner sponsored by the Armstrong Ladies Club. Shamrocks coaches Ryan Nitchie and Myles Brumpton did some pre-game scouting.
“First thing we noticed was the size and athleticism of many of their players,” said Nitchie.
During the pre-game dinner the team was welcomed to the community by Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper who brought greetings from Armstrong and Spallumcheen and presented Slovakia captain Tomas Rydlo with a city flag, history book and city pins that all of the players quickly pinned to their team shirts.
As the fans began to fill the arena, the two teams warmed up. Slovak coaches noted the warm-up drills used by the Shamrocks as they planned to employ some of them into their routine.
Both teams were introduced and lined up for the national anthems of both countries which was followed by a ceremonial faceoff and exchange of gifts. The Slovaks presented the Shamrocks with an autographed jersey and the Shamrocks reciprocated with a jersey as well as copies of their history book “Lacrosse is Armstrong’s Game” by Innes Cooper.
The Shamrocks opened the scoring early when Brett Hawrys stepped into the middle and rifled a shot low glove side. Steve McIlwrath scored his first of five on the night on a top corner snipe. The Slovaks scored a beauty on a behind the net, one-handed dunk shot (legal in international rules) by Noah Hoselton. The Shamrocks led 11-2 at the half.
The Slovaks pushed hard in the second half but couldn’t crack the Shamrocks green wall zone defence. Former South Okanagan Flames player Nick Kapusty scored twice while Taylor Embry rifled a perfect snipe around a screen to mark the fifth goal by the Slovaks.
NLL Vancouver Warrior Owen Barker returned home to play with his hometown team and reunited his chemistry with Hawrys scooping up a face-off and with the ball in the backside of his stick he passed to a streaking Hawrys who scored his second of the game.
Kelowna Raider call-up and current Langley Thunder player Andrew Garant scored a highlight-reel goal with a Jim Maundrell style reverse backhanded between the legs whip shot with his back to the net to dazzle the capacity crowd.
“What a great celebration of lacrosse,” said Nitchie. “Team Slovakia exuded class and professionalism, it was such an honour to host them and the community support was sensational. The Shamrocks raised more than $2,000 for the Slovaks who were very appreciative of the financial assistance as they cover all costs to attend the world championships without government support and limited sponsorship.”
Following the game, the teams joined for a group photo then headed to the Branding Iron Pub for a post-game celebration. Team Slovakia head coach Larry Fila from Maryland USA expressed his appreciation to the team and community for hosting them.
“What a lovely community and great team,” he said. “Our guys learned a lot from that game and as coaches we know what are some things we need to focus on heading into the (world) tournament.”
The Slovaks opened the tournament with a 24-14 win over Team Scotland but fell to their rivals from the Czech Republic on Friday. They take on Mexico and Germany to round out the round robin portion of the tournament.