SIX NATIONS — Gregory Elijah-Brown’s explosive first period game Team Ontario a lead it never surrendered on the way to a gold medal in the U16 lacrosse gold at the North American Indigenous Games on Thursday.
The 9-2 victory over Team Saskatchewan, at Iroquois Arena, was a surprise after a close 8-6 game between the two in Monday preliminaries.
Ontario got off to a terrific start in front of a capacity crowd (elbowed into the purple and yellow seats), led by Elijah-Brown’s natural hat-trick in the first six minutes of action. The young talent from London added two more before the end of the first period, giving him five goals and his team a 5-1 lead.
Elijah-Brown knew right away that today would be a special day.
“After the first few went in I knew because last night I was watching the film to study the goalie from the last time we played them and I saw where I was scoring,” said Elijah-Brown post-game, smile plastered on his face. “So I planned to just shoot there — left side, short-side.”
The early lead would prove to be enough, as despite a valiant effort from Saskatchewan, Team Ontario was simply too much to handle and the game had slipped beyond reach.
It may not have been the result that they were looking for, but coming into this contest, making history was inevitable for Saskatchewan as they medaled in an international lacrosse event for the first time in the province’s history in bringing home silver.
“I’m really proud of the team, but still not happy with the result so we’re going to come right back out here in three years and get that gold because we have a great group of guys here that can do great things,” Saskatchewan goaltender Rance Mayer said after the game.
The win kept Team Ontario’s perfect record intact at the 2017 Games, finishing 4-0 and outscoring their opponents by 52-19.
Ontario lacrosse has found great success in the past, but just like the team from Saskatchewan, this specific group of players representing Ontario had a first of their own. It was the first time any of them had won a gold medal on an international stage — an accomplishment that head coach Paul Stewart is extremely proud of for his team.
“Before we went out, we asked the boys, who has ever won a national championship? The answer was nobody and now 18 guys get to put their hands in the air,” Stewart said. “It’s a really wild feeling and I’m really happy for them.”
Team Ontario captain David Anderson was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, but he opted to shy away from his own success.
“One thing that I always do is think about who I’m playing for and that’s always the guys,” Anderson said, with his gold medal glistening around his neck.
“I know that as captain I have to get them ready, but they’re doing the same thing for us and playing for everyone around them and playing for the name on the front.”
When asked about the success of his team and the keys to victory, again, Anderson chose to credit his teammate Elijah-Brown with the incredible effort.
“Greg was an amazing teammate and player this tournament, I’m so happy that I got to know him—he’s a great guy,” Anderson said.
“He completely dominated on the floor in the offensive zone, wasn’t selfish at all, had a great shot and I was just so happy to play with him.”
Team Ontario now has a chance at the golden sweep, as both it’s U-19 men’s and women’s teams will play for the championship on Friday afternoon under the same roof at Iroquois Arena.