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Digits: From Cockerton to Greer and everything in between and after

By Paul Tutka, 10/11/13, 5:15PM PDT


Gravy drowned fries with only the finest and squeakiest of cheese curds. Back bacon on a bun with a generous slathering of moutarde. A maple glazed doughnut next to a freshly brewed double-double.

All stuff the average Canadian is in a severe love affair with, obviously. It very well could be their three daily meals – in reverse order of course – KD and ketchup for brunch if required.

Yet, those cold climate loving Canuckuleheads yearn for something even more. And no, it’s not a fresh out of the deep fryer beavertail. Although, those heavenly, melt in your mouth, powdered sugar kissed greasers are easy to lust after. Seriously. Try one.

So what really gets these guys off?

Canadians love to make sure you know who and what comes from their homeland. Love it. Need it in order to function. Rarely go a full day without it. Critical to their species survival.

Try mentioning Steve Nash and you will not – repeat will not – get the rest of your sentence out before an eager beaver Canadian in the room blurts out, “You know he’s Canadian, right? Yeah, he’s from Victoria. Isn’t he just the greatest?” The glow on their face appears like they may have even helped mother the two-time NBA MVP during his infant years. Unlikely however.

Canadians make sure they always take credit for Michael J. FoxJoey VottoDrakeRussell PetersArcade Fire, and although even they cringe while the words are fighting to leave their lips, Celine Dion. If you thought for even a second any of those celebs came from any other corner of the globe, if their name is mentioned in the presence of a Canadian, forget it, you’ll know it for the rest of your life, crucified if they have to tell you again. You’ve been warned.

While it’s totally en vogue for Canadians to pat themselves on the back for the budding b-ball career of Thornhill’s Andrew Wiggins these days (few knew he even existed year ago), it is equally hot to holler aloud names like Wesley BergMark Matthews and Jeremy Noble, some of college lacrosse’s biggest name brand players in recent seasons. Walk down any street in Ladner (B.C.), and you’ll likely hear the wind whispering, “Logan Schuss is from here. We love him.”

Growing up and playing box lacrosse in Canada is cool beans stateside these days. Every coach in the US likely has a recruiting trip planned for British Columbia, Ontario, maybe even Alberta this upcoming summer.

Since they took gold at the 2006 FIL World Championships, many Canadians and now even a whole host of converted Americans are praising the game of box lacrosse and its benefits on the sacred US collegiate field game. It’s their national summer sport and brand of the game they’ve been playing for close to 100 years alongside their Native comrades.

Have box lacrosse bred athletes really affected the college ranks that much?

Canadian encrusted propaganda? Maybe. You can only be told Gary Gait and Zack Greer are Canadian so many times before wanting to see some cold hard facts on this whole Canadian invasion thing. If you’re sitting beside a Canadian who is reading this, they likely just nodded their head twice to confirm Gait and Greer were born on Canadian soil.

So how good have Canadians been at playing America’s beloved version of lacrosse? Are they really impacting the sport to the levels they’d have us believe? Are they simply floating for four years on a free ride or are they adding value to the game and aiding their respective programs on the scoreboard?

Ultimately, should we value the currently coveted box player and learn from their doings or boot them back across the border?

Let’s crack open the record books to get a better idea of just how deep these way too nice northerly neighbors have infiltrated the NCAA DI game.

They were wrong about ‘The Beebs’. Maybe here too.

Canadian born career point crushers

While the NCAA doesn’t officially recognize Zack Greer’s ‘fifth’ year when the current Edmonton Rush forward played for Bryant due to their DI re-classification that season, Greer and the Bulldogs still played the likes of Maryland, Virginia and Loyola in 2009 and were as DI as any other. The Whitby born Greer put up 353pts over his college career, deal with it. That total knots him with former Bluedevils buddy Matt DanowskiRob Pannell just this past year edging the duo out by a single point to take the all-time lead. In our world, Greer justifiably sits second in the history books.

Digits: Canada’s All-Time Point Producers

Behind Greer’s career points total, a handful of other Canadians also find themselves in pretty prominent positions in the all-time point rundown.

Overall Player School(s) From Points
2 Zack Greer Duke and Bryant Whitby, Ontario 353
10 Mike French Cornell Niagara, Ontario 296
15 Stan Cockerton North Carolina State Oshawa, Ontario 278
21 Tom Marechek Syracuse Victoria, British Columbia 258
23 Gary Gait Syracuse Victoria, British Columbia 253

Stan Cockerton is also second all-time in points per game, Mike French third, John Grant Jr. and Randy Mearns also inside the Top 25 best ever per game pointers.

Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile, and your goal scoring records

At Duke alone, Greer takes the all-time career goal scoring lead easy peasy lemon squeezy, and a laundry list of Canucks aren’t far behind either. During his 67 games playing in Durham, Greer scored an NCAA recognized 206 goals, an untouchable 248 if you’re cool with his Bryant season. While Canadians are used to doing the most with the little room a box rink allows, it seems the never ending spaciousness college fields provide, has granted them the green light to shoot and score, a lot.

Digits: If you’re not Canadian, please leave

Of the Top 8 all-time career DI goal scorers, six come from the Great White North, led by who else but Greer. That’s like looking at the all-time NHL scoring leaders and having them littered with Russians or Swedes. Sacrilege. Don Cherry, who coincidentally is a big box lacrosse fan, would not be happy. Well, the Canadian saturation here he’d be happy with. The Russian thing not so much.

Overall Player School(s) From Goals
1 Zack Greer Duke and Bryant Whitby, Ontario 248
3 Stand Cockerton North Carolina State Oshawa, Ontario 193
4 Gary Gait Syracuse Victoria, British Columbia 192
5 Mike French Cornell Niagara, Ontario 191
6 Merrick Thompson Albany Hamilton, Ontario 188
8 Tom Marechek Syracuse Victoria, British Columbia 182

Old timers Cockerton and French also rank high in the per game column here too, sitting one-and-two respectively, the only two full-time DI players to average over 4 goals per game during a career. Currently, Cockerton is the FIL President and French the President and Owner of the Philadelphia Wings (NLL). The two also played on the 1978 Team Canada side that won Canada’s first gold medal at the World Championships. Legends.

Loosie Loving Lakers

Canadian born, box balling players can apparently cripple more than just the offensive college scoring charts too.

Currently suiting up for his hometown Calgary Roughnecks in the National Lacrosse League (NLL), Geoff Snider was one in a long line of Burnaby Lakers (Canadian Junior ‘A’) that followed in the footsteps of Matt Brown and landed at Denver University.

While Snider has gained a reputation for knowing his way in and out of the penalty box thanks to his flying fists, collegiately, those hands proved pretty nasty at the face-off circle and in loose ball battles too.

Snider was not a face-off guy previous to joining the Pioneers, but that unmatched work ethic and desire which Snider has also become known for, propelled him to become a very dominant drawman and ball scooper.

Snider’s 194gb in 2006 in Denver are the most any one player has collected in a season, while not so surprisingly his 11.41 grounders per game in that same season is still the best ever. And get this, the second all-time single season loose balls per game snatcher is none other than Richmond’s (B.C) Mark Miyashita (10.69 with Canisius in 2000), also from those famed 90’s Junior ‘A’ Lakers Minto Cup winning machines and currently teaching grass roots box lacrosse in Connecticut.

Deflecting shots and stereotypes

Some wondered if fellow shot stopping string bean Will Haas would push Canadian born goalie Dillon Ward for minutes in 2013 at Bellarmine. No offense to Will, but really? Those pondering few can file that Q in the same folder labeled ‘the earth is flat’ and ‘moon made of cheese’, because the senior season Ward recently spit out was one for the ages. Ward was a Tewaaraton Award wildcard in 2013, his backstopping stats some of the most impressive in recent seasons from a Canadian, American or otherwise. His 20-save, double OT performance against the hugely favored Denver Pioneers wasn’t too shabby either, Denver Head Coach Bill Tierney describing Ward’s show stopping showcase as simply “phenomenal”.

Digits: Phenomenally Pristine Percentages

Below, check out where Ward’s outstanding 0.662 save percentage from this past spring ranks among the top rated DI goalies over the past decade (minimum 100 shots face).

Player School From Year Save% Saves Shots
Dan Loftus Duke Syosset, New York 2006 0.687 79 115
Brendan Callahan Stony Brook Hanover, Maryland 2004 0.678 154 227
Jordan Burke Brown Potomac, Maryland 2008 0.674 182 270
Scott Rodgers Notre Dame Wantagh, New York 2009 0.663 187 282
Dillon Ward Bellarmine Oragneville, Ontario 2013 0.662 208 314
John Geagan Manhattan Seaford, New York 2006 0.653 115 176
Doc Schneider UMass Massapequa, New York 2009 0.651 205 315
Joey Kemp Notre Dame Potomac, Maryland 2005 0.65 130 200
Drew Adams Penn State Springfield, Pennsylvania 2009 0.649 209 322
Alex Hewit Princeton Chatham, New Jersey 2006 0.646 181 280
Justin Pavoni Air Force Park City, Utah 2004 0.644 161 250
Brent Herbst Siena Plainview, New York 2008 0.64 153 239

Rarely do Canadians hog any goaltender spots in college lacrosse really at any level, but Ward was able to learn from two of the best Canucks to play on grass. It was first class instruction from irreplaceable teachers. “I think the biggest thing growing up was being fortunate enough to be coached by Chris Sanderson as well as Kyle Miller at different True North Camps,” said Ward.

Sanderson and Miller, who backstopped Canada to that improbable gold at the 2006 World Championships, both recently lost battles with cancer. The pair are arguably Canada’s best field lacrosse goalies maybe ever, impacting this great game but inspiring many well beyond any playing field.

While Canadians have invaded the NCAA goal scoring column in recent years, the three tendies above took their box lacrosse learnings and did the same in the cage. “Box helped my field game by being able to stay big in the cage and get my body to shots when I can’t get my stick there,” said Ward, who will be looking to follow in his late idols’ footsteps as he competes for a spot on Team Canada’s 2014 World Championship roster. “I have a lot of body saves in my game,” added Ward, a two-time winner of Canada’s prestigious Minto Cup as well.

Digits: Another rarity for Ward

Ward was recently selected third overall by the Colorado Mammoth in the NLL entry draft, one of the highest ever goalies taken in the history of the pro game. Check out where Ward ranks among those goalies below, one of the few to have played between the pipes in both field and box at such high levels of the game.

Year Overall Player Team School Junior ‘A
1999 2 Gee Nash New York Saints None Whitby
1996 2 Brian Dougherty Baltimore Thunder Maryland None
2013 3 Dillon Ward Colorado Mammoth Bellarmine Orangeville
1988 3 Tom McLelland Baltimore Thunder Loyola None
1998 4 Chris Sanderson Baltimore Thunder Virginia Orangeville
1997 4 Jim Rankin Syracuse Smash None Orangeville
1995 5 Derek Collins Rochester Knighthawks None Toronto
2011 6 Evan Kirk Minnesota Swarm Hobart K-W
2006 6 Matt Vinc* San Jose Stealth Canisius St. Catharines
2005 7 Paul Dawson** San Jose Stealth None Brampton
1998 7 Matt Disher Buffalo Bandits None K-W
2004 9 Matt Morehouse Calgary Roughnecks Surrey Stickmen None
2002 13 Johnny McLellan Toronto Rock Toronto Beaches None

*Matt Vinc plays as a goalie in box lacrosse and as a defender in field lacrosse
**Paul Dawson was drafted as a goalie but has since transitioned into a defender

Back to Attack

OK, it was nice paying some of the non-offensive guys respect, but back to the players that have spearheaded this over the fence charge in Barack’s backyard. The always lethal, often cocky, glory hogging snipers from the north have become a blazing hot commodity in all of NCAA lacrosse. DI, II and III coaches are often seen in various non-air-conditioned, sweat stenching, history heaping barns really all over the country these days. They’re all in search of the exact same thing. A Canadian born box lacrosse player that can maneuver their twig inside a phone booth, effectively shuffle their kicks off ball like Fred Astaire, flip the switch on a release while being mauled by a multitude of plugs, and then precisely threading that virtually invisible needle top cheese. Coming in just after those stretchy yoga pants and a Timmy Ho’s timbit, it’s Canada’s highest export lately. Probably.

Denver Pioneers and Denver Elite coach Matt Brown recently said:

"If you go back to when Canadians like the Gaits and Marecheks of the sport played in college, a lot of the other bigger box names weren’t necessarily going that route too. Canadians were impacting NCAA lacrosse, just not at the numbers we see today. John TavaresColin Doyle and other top box lacrosse players never played NCAA lacrosse, but surely could have. Now a decade or two later, all the best Canadians are being recruited and impacting the sport…"

Is the B.C. born, Colorado roosting coach correct in his assessment or simply bleeding some of that red and white, Labatt swigging pride? While thorough NCAA stats weren’t easily accessible going back to when Gary, Paul and ‘Hollywood’ were redefining the sport at the Carrier Dome in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Brown looks like he’s pretty bang on as of 2000 at the very least.

Two years before Brown even attended Denver as a freshman in 2002 – leading the Pioneers in goals and points – Tracey Kelusky (Peterborough, Ontario) led not only Hartford but the entire nation in goals with 59 finishes. He was just one of five Canucks that finished within the Top 50 goal scorers in all of DI lacrosse. Loyola Greyhound Gavin Prout’s 42g (Whitby, Ontario) allowed him to fit into the even more prestigious Top 15 alongside Kelusky, and for useless trivia purposes, Bryan Bendig (Surrey, B.C.), Jeff Ratcliffe (Coquitlam, B.C.) and current Stealth Academy Director Lewis Ratcliff (Vitoria, B.C.) rounded out that ever so lonely five.

How did the next 13 years go for those sneaky border hoppers from the north?

Digits: The really, really good goal scorers

Definition of ‘really, really good goal scorers’; a lacrosse player who finished in the Top 50 highest goal scorers in NCAA DI. While everyone from Delta (B.C.) to Dildo Run (Newfoundland) seem to be declaring a similar statement to the one Brown shared, the numbers definitely back up the trend, maybe even more than most thought.

While more and more schools slowly started giving out an increased amount scholarships to athletes that grew up on a healthy dose of box lacrosse, the trend on the scoring charts rocketed even faster. Kids spending their summers playing on the same melted surfaces they had spent their winters slapping pucks on, were making the most of their opportunities when given the chance.

Below, check out how many Canadians cracked the Top 50 goal scorers since that impressive summer Kelusky led the country in that same column. Note: Stats below also include Iroquois players who grew up playing box lacrosse before attending an NCAA program.

While Americans, who obviously own a considerably higher percentage of scholarships and roster spots, enjoyed as much as 98% of that really, really good Top 50 (see 2001 above, when only Prout scored enough to finish that high), last year they took up fewer spots on that list than almost ever before. The only season Canadians and Iroquois players eked 2013’s class out was in 2010 when the likes of Curtis DicksonKevin CrowleyMark Matthews and Stephen Keogh led the brigade. The Canadians are indeed coming and more importantly producing, in record numbers in fact.

Current US Box Lacrosse Association (USBOXLA) Director of Eastern Officials Adam Gardner was one of those point producing Canadians that twice found his way into the nation’s Top 50 goal scorers, playing for DI’s Bellarmine University. The North York (Ontario) native grew up playing Junior ‘A’ lacrosse for the Toronto Beaches among other programs, and credits his skill development in box lacrosse as the reason why he was able to excel in the US. “I would not have been a successful player at the DI level without it, bottom line,” said Gardner. “Box forces you to learn how to react quickly and shoot in a variety of ways.

“There is nowhere to hide from defensemen either. Box lacrosse creates players that are used to physicality, who have to play that way to be successful.”

So what happens when you climb even higher and look at the real cream of the crop when it comes to DI goal poachers?

Digits: The absolute best in the nation

So while the Top 50 definitely highlighted some of each season’s top finishers, the Top 15 from within that Top 50 really separates the really, really good from the absolute best. What happens to the box bred trend then? Well, they seem to crash that countdown even harder. While common sense would likely dictate that the Top 50 and 15 should be relatively equal when chopping it by nationality, in this case, it surely isn’t. In all but three of the past 14 DI campaigns, Canadians and Iroquois Nationals have managed to dominate that ‘absolute best’ pool to an often much higher degree than they did the Top 50. Last year 60% of the Top 15 owned either a Canadian or Haudenosaunee Confederacy passport.

Of the 14 seasons surveyed above, a Canadian led DI goal scorers an astounding eight times. Eight! Those names include Trevor Moore (Port Coquitlam, B.C.), Athan Iannucci (Port Moody, B.C), Merrick Thomson (Hamilton, Ontario), Keogh (Toronto, Ontario), Greer three times, and of course Kelusky. And although the 1999 season didn’t slip into our metrics due to a lack of availability of concrete numbers, Grant led DI with 56g that season. Simply staggering.

In April 2011, recently retired pro Brian Langtry, a Massapequa (N.Y) native that thrived in both versions of the sport, told Inside Lacrosse, “Americans better learn the game or all the attack spots on DI rosters will be filled by Canadians soon.” Smart man.

Digits: Selectively Smooth Shooters recently started publishing the top shooting percentage leaders since 2010. Surprise. All Canadians in each of the four seasons since. Even an Albertan slipped in this time.

Year Player From School GP G SH SH%
2010 Corbyn Tao Coquitlam, British Columbia Robert Morris 15 41 77 0.532
2011 Simon Giourmetakis Edmonton, Alberta Canisius 12 22 43 0.512
2012 Deron Dempster Orangeville, Ontario Yale 14 37 57 0.649
2013 Brody Eastwood Victoria, British, Columbia Stony Brook 16 44 70 0.629

Jordan Hall: The 3 Second Man

Take a stab at how fast the quickest goal to start a game took? You’ll never guess. Never, unless you’re a DI stat geek with a great memory and zero social life. Answer: 3 seconds. 3 freaking seconds is how long it took for Canadian born Jordan Hall to torpedo a bomb into the back of Albany’s net on March 11 2006, an 18-11 Delaware victory. Hall, who currently runs Box Lacrosse Training (BLT) in Baltimore, Maryland, teaching American youth how to play real box lacrosse, scored that goal in less time it takes most of us to blink our peepers. Well, sort of.

In his own words, Hall breaks down how the ball was able to go from face-off win to the back of the Great Danes’ net in an obscenely short amount of clock ticks:

"Alex Smith, who was our draw guy, was pretty ridiculous at face-offs, especially in college. He would just dominate. It got to the point where he would either just win them to himself or would tell me to go sprinting towards the net, he’d pinch and pop it, and then fire it directly to my stick on the run. He literally did this in one motion. It was almost like I was a wide receiver. I’d line up on the wing, act line I was gonna run forward a bit, but then sprint like crazy to the opposing end. So that’s exactly what happened when we played Albany that day. He gunned it right to me while I was sprinting, I kinda judge if they were gonna slide on me or not, and then just shot it into the back of the net. It’s funny because that used to be Alex’s record. He scored once in like six seconds to start a game. Now, in all fairness, if you go back and check out the film, whoever was running the clock was a bit slow and it was kind of borderline if I edged out Alex’s old mark. Afterwards Alex says to me, “Jordan I have a lot of records buddy, you can have this one!'"

Digits: The twins don’t take their time either

Hall is not the only Canuck or Iroquois rooted player to score uber early after the opening whistle. Although the Gaits kinda do all the work here, check out how quick those B.C. islanders found the back of the cage at ‘Cuse, looking at the fastest ever goals to start a game in DI lacrosse by box players.

Overall Player From School Opponent (Yr.) Time
1 Jordan Hall Surrey, British Columbia Delaware Albany '06 0:03
12 Gary Gait Victoria, British Columbia Syracuse Hobart '88 0:09
12 Gary Gait Victoria, British Columbia Syracuse SUNY Cortland '89 0:09
16 Paul Gait Victoria, British Columbia Syracuse Johns Hopkins '88 0:10
16 Gary Gait Victoria, British Columbia Syracuse Navy '89 0:10
21 Gary Gait Victoria, British Columbia Syracuse Cornell '89 0:13
21 Paul Gait Victoria, British Columbia Syracuse Hofstra '90 0:13
28 Paul Gait Victoria, British Columbia Syracuse Brown '90 0:16
28 Jeremy Thompson Onondaga Nation Syracuse Albany '11 0:16

“We’re… We’re going streaking! We’re going up the quad and to the gymnasium.”

Canadians can score often (see Greer) and quickly (see Hall), but they can also score repeatedly too. Tom Marechek, who of course like the Gaits hails from Victoria and brought his box fundamentals to Syracuse, holds the record for scoring in consecutive games. Again, you will never guess. Marecheck would tug twine in 56 consecutive games. And the real mind blower might be that Marechek scored in all but two of his career 58 NCAA DI contests. For realsies.

Digits: The Neveredning Stories

In keeping with the today’s theme, guess what, Marecheck isn’t the only Canadian to rank way up the charts when it comes to the best consecutive DI goal scorers. Check out where Canucks rank behind ‘Hollywood’ in this highly notable all-time stat.

Overall Player From School Years Games
1 Tom Marechek Victoria, British Columbia Syracuse 1989-1992 56
3 Mike French Niagara, Ontario Cornell 1974-1976 47
5 Gary Gait Victoria, British Columbia Syracus 1987-1990 44
10 Kevin Ross London, Ontario Canisius 2005-2007 34
12 Bryan Neufeld Virgil, Ontario Siena 2009-2010 31
15 Curtis Dickson Port Coquitlam, British Columbia Delaware 2007-2009 30
19 Stephen Keogh Toronto, Ontario Syracuse 2008-2010 27
23 Curtis Dickson Port Coquitlam, British Columbia Delaware 2009-2010 25

In Closing

While many field lacrosse purists for years felt box lacrosse was nothing more than an excuse for brainless, blood thirsty Canadians to slash each other for fun or pop one another in the beak without being arrested for assault, even the harshest critic of the sport cannot deny the benefits of box lacrosse today.

The numbers do not lie. Take a second look at any of the digits above. None of this was fabricated.
The gains the indoor game has provided field lacrosse players is undeniable. Box lacrosse in the US is not a fad or the trendy thing to do in your training because a coach has run out of new ideas to keep things fresh.

Box lacrosse is not the equivalent of arena football. The history books up north will win that argument any day of the week. It is long ago cemented sport that has been played by elite level athletes for decades on top of decades in Canada. This is no overnight sensation like slamball or ultimate frisbee. Box lacrosse has roots, ones that run deeper than most realize.

While the odd scripted fight does take place (depending on what your rulebook allows) or cheap shot happens (but is almost always penalized), those same negative elements are often found in many sports today, magnified by the media when they do occur, soccer moms shrieking in terror to make sure they are acknowledged. It happens, especially in today’s overly sensitive, digitally vocal, social media spreading, usually issue uneducated world.

The indoor game requires skill, brains, athleticism, and yes, a certain degree of toughness. If keeping your khaki crease crisp or your crest stitched polo perfectly pressed is imperative, then keep keeping the grass stains off your cleats by standing around and only playing parts of a field lacrosse game while those around you keep getting better.

The greatest players on the planet – today and yesterday – play professionally in both field (MLL) and indoor (NLL) lacrosse. It’s that simple. Do you seriously think Paul Rabil plays for the Philadelphia Wings because he likes being hounded and pounded on by some hard hitting Canadian for 60 straight minutes, turf burning his knees to a bloody mess, all while making little bread and losing several months worth of weekends? Get real. Lacrosse players are often a screw or two loose (some several), but how many masochists do you really think play professional lacrosse?

Attackmen, middies, defenders or even – as Dillon Ward recently exhibited in the footsteps of his departed heroes – goalies can better their overall game by playing box lacrosse.


So, unless you need any of the above rewritten in hieroglyphics and performed through interpretative dance to finally ‘get it’, today’s metric heavy history lesson is complete.

Canadians, as it turns out, are correct about their beloved box lacrosse and it’s impact one NCAA ball. Just please, don’t tell any of them that, because you’ll never hear the end of it.

It’s their national summer sport, eh.

Images: Zack Greer (David Silverman), Geoff Snider, (Tim Head), Dillan Ward (Ward Laforme Jr.), Matt Brown (Rich Clarkson & Associates), and Kevin Ross (Tom Wolf)