The Bowhunter Cup is a perfect example of why we can love the game of lacrosse so much more than we love other sports. It’s an exhibition game, yes. But in so many other ways, it’s not. If you were on hand for Saturday’s game in Rochester, you know exactly what we’re talking about. There really was nothing “exhibition” about it. Ask Donny Moss or Mike Manley of the U.S. if scuffles with Cody Jamieson were exhibition. Ask Matt Lovejoy of the U.S. if his trips to the penalty box for trading punches with Craig Point or Jeff Shattler was exhibition. No, this was not just an international friendly. This was a very real game with very real emotions and real heart.
“Once you put your country, your colors on, you want to win every time,” said Jamieson afterward. “It’s all pride, all about who you’re representing.. We knew they’d be strong. The first year, they won by 1 and last year we won by 1. So pride goes a long way.”
At first, this looked like a colossal mismatch. The Nationals introduced a stacked roster with the likes of Cody Jamieson, Mike Thompson, Jeff Shattler, Johnny Powless and Sid Smith in their group that included no less than 12 National Lacrosse League regulars.
The U.S., with Joe Walters, David Earl and Mitch Belisle, had talent. But really, only 8 of the U.S. players had seen time in the NLL last season and not all of them were regulars.
But a funny thing happened on the way to a thrilling 12-10 win for the Iroquois. There was heart, and plenty of it, on display. The checks were intense and they were finished. There were shenanigans after the whistle. Shooters who dove and landed in the crease were tapped back down, a reminder that your next flight path should be chosen carefully. Several punches were thrown, although the 3 officials kept control of the game and didn’t allow any fights to unfold. And yes, the jaws were flapping.
This was nothing like exhibition games in other sports. This was live and it was for real.
The Iroquois at one point appeared to be pulling away to fulfill the expectation of the mismatch. They opened leads of 4-1, 7-4 and 10-7 but the Americans never backed down. They rallied each time and played with a confidence that they could not just compete in this game, but win it outright.
And they nearly did. It was a 1-goal game for the final 8 minutes or so and the U.S. missed a chance to tie the game when it was awarded a penalty shot with 17.7 seconds left. But the shot by Joe Resetarits didn’t fall, and Joe Hill clinched the win for the Nationals with his empty-netter with 1.6 seconds left.
So in the end, the order was too tall. In the end, the talent and drive of the Iroquois emerged victorious. It won’t be very consoling to the Americans who lost this game to let them know they did themselves proud with the effort. They don’t want to hear that. They wanted this win, badly.
But so did the Iroquois, and they got it.
What those in the stands got was a solid game of lacrosse and really, it’s a shame not more were on hand to watch.
Wherever next year’s event is played, fans there would be well-advised to attend. Because chances are pretty good they’ll get what fans in Rochester got on Saturday night, and that was anything but an exhibition lacrosse game.
P.S. If you missed the game and want to see it, head on over to NLL.com. The game’s been posted there in its entirety.Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at email@example.com or go to RochesterSports.com.
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