NLL teammates set to play against each other for pride in Montreal exhibition game

Johnny Powless is one of 7 Knighthawks playing in Sunday's exhibition game. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Johnny Powless is one of 7 Knighthawks playing in Sunday's exhibition game. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

Seven members of the back-to-back National Lacrosse League champion Rochester Knighthawks will hit the turf at the Bell Centre in Montreal for an international exhibition on Sunday. “I’m honored and very excited. It’s a great opportunity to showcase lacrosse and anytime you can play for your country it’s that much more special,” said Knighthawk and Team Canada forward Cory Vitarelli. “I’m looking forward to it and can’t wait to represent Canada.” Vitarelli will join teammates Matt Vinc, and Paul and Dan Dawson on Team Canada, as they battle the Iroquois Nationals and Knighthawks teammates Sid Smith, Johnny Powless and Angus Goodleaf on Sunday at 2 p.m. The game will feature the top two teams from the 2011 FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Ticket information and prices are available at

Dan Dawson, who won his first Champion’s Cup in 2013 with the Knighthawks, will serve as the team captain for Team Canada. The Oakville native and former NLL MVP headlines a Canadian Team that also features Kevin Crowley (Philadelphia), Stephan Leblanc (Toronto), Sandy Chapman (Toronto), Jordan Hall (Philadelphia), Shawn Evans (Calgary), Brodie Merrill (Philadelphia) and Patrick Merrill (Toronto).

“I have been fortunate to play for my country a couple of times. For the coaching staff to ask me to be the captain is an honor,” said Dawson. “I have to make sure I wear the maple leaf with pride and do everything in my power to lead the troops to a good game.”

Defenseman Paul Dawson will join his older brother in Montreal after receiving the call today to play for Team Canada. It has been an incredible week for Dawson, who re-signed with the Knighthawks for four more seasons on Monday.

“I’m honored and thrilled. I think it’s a dream of every kid growing up to don the maple leaf. It has always been a dream of mine,” he said. “I can’t wait for the opportunity to play and hope its leads to more chances.”

Backstopping the Canadian effort will be Matt Vinc, who led the NLL in saves, save percentage and goals-against average in 2013. Vinc set the NLL single-season saves record (662) in 2013 en route to a league-record third Goaltender of the Year Award (2010, 2011 and 2013). Vinc also joined Dallas Eliuk as the only other goalie to lead the NLL in saves four times. The St. Catharines, Ontario native was honored as an NLL All-Pro for the fourth time in his career and named the Knighthawks’ MVP for the second time. More importantly, he won his second straight Champion’s Cup.

On Sunday, he will play in the same arena that his idol Patrick Roy once starred in for the Montreal Canadiens. Playing for Team Canada in the home of his favorite NHL team makes the game even more meaningful for Vinc.

“I’m really excited to play in the Bell Centre and in this historic sports city,” said Vinc. “As a child, I dreamt of playing for my country and standing in that crease.”

Sunday is the first meeting between Canada and the Iroquois Nationals since the 2011 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships, which were held in Prague. Canada downed the Iroquois 13-6 behind a 23-save effort from Vinc to win the gold medal.

The next World Indoor Lacrosse Championships are set for Onondaga Nation and Buffalo from September 18 through 26, 2015. It marks the first time the event will be played on indigenous land.

“We are hosting in 2015, which is something very special and unique. Our younger guys are going to learn a lot and it gives us a chance to develop players and prepare for 2015,” said Iroquois General Manager Gewas Schindler about Sunday’s game. “It’s a great chance to play again and bring the team together, and see Canada’s new, young roster.”

The Iroquois are fresh off a 24-11 victory of the U.S. Indoor Developmental Team in the Bowhunter Cup. The Nationals roster will feature three members of the Knighthawks, including Powless, who recorded six points (2+4) in his second Bowhunter Cup.

“I’m very excited to play at the Bell Centre on Sunday. It will be a good experience to play against team Canada,” said Powless, who has won two Champion’s Cups in his first two seasons of professional lacrosse.

The Iroquois goaltending until will include former Bandits goalie Mikey Thompson and Knighthawks netminder Angus Goodleaf. Both goalies were members of the silver-medal winning Iroquois squad from 2011. Goodleaf won his first Champion’s Cup in 2013 after signing with Rochester as a free agent. Now he gets an opportunity to play for the Iroquois in Montreal, which is less than a 20-minute drive from his hometown of Kahnawake.

“I’m pretty pumped. I get to play with some hometown guys that I haven’t played with since minors. I also get the chance to play in front of family and friends that haven’t been able to see the game played at that level,” said Goodleaf.

The Iroquois Nationals will also field a roster that includes NLL standouts Roger Vyse (Toronto), Jeff Shattler (Calgary), Jeremy Thompson (Edmonton), Brett Bucktooth (Vancouver) and Brandon Francis (Philadelphia). The Nationals will also showcase young, talented players like Randy Staats, Vaughn Harris and Wenster Green.

One of the players tasked with bringing the team together is Knighthawks Team Captain Sid Smith, who serves in the same capacity with the Iroquois Nationals. Smith has been named Top Defenseman and All-World at the past two FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Not to mention, he has raised the Champion’s Cup the past two seasons.

“Sid Smith has been our captain and will continue in that role because of his leadership on and off the floor,” said Schindler. “He has proven he is a high-level player in professional and international lacrosse. He leads by example and gets it done. He is an irreplaceable member of our team.”

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