As the 2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship officially concluded Saturday evening, coloradomammoth.com is taking a look back at how members from the Colorado Mammoth represented their respective nations during the two-week international tournament.
With Dillon Ward and Ryan Lee representing Canada, two of the Mammoth’s NLL All-Pros were able to team up for a frantic finish en route to securing our northern neighbors a silver medal, while Zed Williams and Eli McLaughlin helped Haudenosaunee secure a bronze placement for the third time in a row.
Similar to international competition formats in other sports, 30 qualifying teams began the opening week with four Pool Play games. Following each team’s four contests, the field of teams was seeded and separated for the remainder of the bracketed tournament.
After racking up a 3-1 record during its opening slate of challenges, Team Canada was awarded the No. 2 overall seed. Surviving battles against Australia (10-3), Haudenosaunee (8-7) and England (11-4), it was the red and white squad’s opening night matchup against the United States which kept the contingent from posting a flawless 4-0 record in Pool Play, as the U.S. edged out Canada in a close 7-5 result.
Featuring an extra bit of scrappiness between the two familiar nations, the competitive Day 1 showdown would eventually serve as a preview, as the two nations eventually battled their way to a chance for a gold medal.
Ryan Lee was able to get the scoring started for Canada in the opening match, but was held to just one point (1g, 0a) during his debut on the World stage. Ward exited the contest with two saves on nine quality attempts as the eventual No. 1 seed USA picked up the win.
Showing up on the scoreboard at least once in each of Canada’s six games leading into the big dance, Lee managed one goal against Australia June 24 and another against Haudenosaunee June 25 (in a close 8-7 match in which each goal made a difference.) Later picking up a pair of goals (2g, 0a) June 26 in the team’s 11-4 win over England, Lee and the offensive unit continued to show flashes as the tournament progressed. Ward would sit out the matchup against Australia, paving way for teammate Brett Dobson to spend some time in net, and eventually split time with him during the team’s next three appearances.
Finally beginning the journey through the bracket stage, Lee popped off for a career-best four goals (4g, 0a) during Canada’s Quarterfinal matchup against Jamaica before eventually capturing a convincing 20-1 final over the nation to advance. Ward, again, split time with Dobson, but managed three saves en route to allowing just one goal in 30 minutes on the turf.
Marking just his second 60-minute effort of the tournament, the grizzled veteran made the best of his rest by holding Haudenosaunee to just seven goals during the Semifinals round, making a tournament-best 11 saves. With Lee picking up his first assist of the event, the talented RIT scorer notched two points (1g, 1a) in the win as Canada officially punched its ticket to the gold medal game.
Despite seeing the game tied early in the second half at 4-4, the stars and stripes proved to be the superior squad Saturday, primarily thanks to the team’s quality defensive effort in keeping Ryan Lee and company rather contained. While Lee wasn’t able to get on the board in the finale, he finished the tournament with 11 points (10g, 1a).
Facing arguably one of the toughest schedules of all nations in play, Haudenosaunee posted a 2-2 record in Pool Play. Kicking things off with a massive 18-5 win over England on June 23, the purple and white squad went on to drop its next two contests in heartbreaking fashion to the eventual No. 1 (USA: 9-7) and No. 2 (Canada: 8-7) seeds as part of the toughest Pool Play group in the world. Turning things around during its 10-6 win over Australia June 27, Haudenosaunee handled Hong Kong, China (13-3) and later Japan (10-5) in the Quarterfinals before eventually running into Canada in the Semifinals.
As far as Zed and Liger’s experience at Worlds goes, each of the talented athletes accepted new challenges in the format, with Zed spending a majority of his playing time on defense with a long pole and Eli continuing to become familiarized with the outdoor game. Growing up in and hailing from British Columbia, the star has made a name for himself in the box game, but after being signed by the PLL’s Redwoods (who also hold the rights to Ryan Lee), the forward turned attackman wasn’t afraid of the bright lights by any means.
Donning the No. 3 jersey in his first-ever outdoor adventures on the world stage, McLaughlin made the final roster after Buffalo Bandits’ forward Tehoka Nanticoke was ruled out due to injury availability, but made the most of his limited playing time once warmed up. Registering very little playing time in the first two games, McLaughlin got his bearings in the format, but did not appear on the scoresheet until Game 3, where he earned his first international point (0g, 1a). Finding his groove in the next matchup, a 10-6 win over Australia, McLaughlin recorded an impressive hat trick effort in fueling his squad to the win. Staying hot, McLaughlin managed a pair of points (1g, 1a) during a June 28 matchup against Hong Kong, China, as Haudenosaunee posted a 13-3 win, but would fail to find twine in either of the nation’s next two bracket games as his playing time was again reduced.
Normally a dominant force on offense, Williams accepted and embraced his new role as a protector, racking up four ground balls and one point (0g, 1a) on the back end. With potent talents like Austin and Randy Staats, Lyle Thompson, Kyle Jackson, Brendan Bomberry, McLaughlin and company able to hold things down up front, Williams showcased his flexibility and athleticism on both ends of the turf: something box lacrosse lovers can surely appreciate.
While Haudenosaunee was able to secure an 11-6 win in during Saturday afternoon’s bronze medal game, they will have to revisit the drawing board in order to make another run at Team Canada and the U.S., as the team now has won bronze three tournaments in a row. McLaughlin ended his first trip to Worlds with six points (4g, 2a), while Williams notched one point (0g, 1a), four ground balls and three caused turnovers.
Mammoth fans can stay tuned to coloradomammoth.com and Colorado Mammoth social media channels as some of the boys get set to return to summer play in the Premier Lacrosse League. After seeing Wardo and company capture the honors last year with the Water Dogs, will any of Colorado’s guys bring home some more hardware later this summer?!