July 24, 2010

Showstopper: Doc Finishes Career on Top

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Team USA 12, Canada 10

Goalkeeper Brian Dougherty ended his Hall of Fame career with a 15-save performance for the U.S. national team.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

MANCHESTER, England --
Brian Dougherty wore the American flag like a cape, flying from teammate to teammate for some new bit of smack talk.

“That’s how you retire,” he said.

It’s hard to imagine lacrosse without Dougherty, the portly, loud-mouthed, bald 36-year old who will go down as one of the best goalkeepers the sport has ever seen. Doc made 15 saves Saturday to lead the U.S. national team to a 12-10 victory over Canada in the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship final at the University of Manchester.

No two were bigger than when Team USA trailed 9-8 with less than 17 minutes remaining and Canada was man-up. He denied Kevin Huntley high, the rebound got muffed and then he lunged left to save Kevin Crowley’s putback with his left knee.

“Huntley had a time and space shot from 10 yards that was pretty hard. I had a feeling he was going to shoot it high, so I got it at the last second, popped it up in the air,” Dougherty said afterward. “Then I just remember chaos, with Kevin Cassese picking it up and throwing it to me. It got tipped and I saw one of these big Canadians get it out of there. I don’t really know what happened. I just saw the ball and I used my cat-like reflexes to do whatever I could to get an arm, shoulder, leg, a stick, anything I could on it.”

Dougherty spoke the words “cat-like reflexes” with his trademark, tongue-in-cheek grin. Those saves, however, were the catalyst for the U.S. in its comeback executed chiefly by Ned Crotty.

They were also the final highlights of a long, storied and surefire Hall of Fame career. Doc has already retired from professional lacrosse, and had said this Team USA stint would be his last with any team.

“Wearing this [flag] on my back, you know, it’s for my country. It’s something that they had that we needed to get back,” said Dougherty, referring to Canada’s win over the U.S in the gold medal game four years ago. “Put all that together with it being my last game, there’s a lot of stuff going on here.”

Dougherty dueled with Chris Sanderson, the Canadian goalie who has served as the team’s inspiration since returning from brain surgery two years ago and undergoing monthly chemotherapy treatments for cancer. Their careers overlapped with ACC rivals Maryland and Virginia, respectively.

“He’s my nemesis,” Dougherty said.

Sanderson was almost as good as Dougherty, finishing with 10 saves Saturday. Doc was just better – atoning for a mediocre performance in the preliminary game the week before, which Canada won 10-9.

“The Doctor. He had some incredible saves today. He brings some incredible energy,” said U.S. team attackman Ryan Boyle, a former teammate of Dougherty’s with the Philadelphia Barrage. “”I don’t think people give him enough credit for being the leader he is on and off the field, in the huddles. It felt good being back on his side, certainly.”

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