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USA White forward CJ Kirst shoots an airborne twister against Snake Island Muskies goalie Edmund Cathers in the North American Invitational championship game Saturday at the Utica University Nexus Center.

USA White Defeats Snake Island Muskies for North American Invitational Title

September 30, 2023
Matt DaSilva
Jared Todhunter

For the first time in the seven-year history of LAXNAI, an American team has won the title.

For the first time in the seven-year history of the North American Invitational (LAXNAI), a team comprised mostly of American players has won the championship.

USA White completed an undefeated two-day run through the tournament with a 9-2 victory over the Snake Island Muskies in the championship game Saturday night at the Utica University Nexus Center — which will also be the site of the World Lacrosse Box Championship next year.

In preparation for the world championship, USA Lacrosse recently named 66 players to the U.S. Men’s Box National Team player pool and brought two teams to LAXNAI.

Snake Island, a team that made it to the bronze medal game in the Presidents Cup, relegated USA Blue to the consolation bracket Friday. USA White exacted its revenge Saturday, scoring eight unanswered goals and dominating possession time thanks to All-Tournament transition ace Tim Edwards (Canisius ‘15/Colorado Mammoth) and relentless forechecking.

CJ Kirst (Cornell ’24) finished with 10 goals in five games to earn LAXNAI MVP honors. Joey Spallina (Syracuse ’26) was the team’s top scorer in the tournament with 16 points (9G, 7A). The NCAA field lacrosse stars both ventured north of the border to play in the Ontario Junior Lacrosse League over the summer and demonstrated their newfound box lacrosse acumen consistently over the course of two days in Utica.

They connected right away in the final, with Spallina finding Kirst with an interior feed from the wing for a power-play goal to stake USA White to a 1-0 lead.

The Muskies responded with a pair of unanswered goals to close out the first quarter and goalie Edmund Cathers kept USA White at bay before the floodgates opened midway through the second quarter.

Cole Kirst (Lehigh ‘22/Syracuse ’23) received a skip pass over the top from Patrick McIntosh (Virginia ’24) and snuck the ball between Cathers and the post to tie the game at 2.

Blaze Riorden (Albany ‘16/Philadelphia Wings) — the World Lacrosse Most Outstanding Goalie for the gold medal-winning U.S. field team over the summer and a three-time Premier Lacrosse League Goalie of the Year who plays forward in box — scored a diving goal with a defender draped around his neck to put USA White ahead 3-2.

USA White made it a two-goal lead in the last minute of the second quarter. Defender Dylan Robinson (Buffalo Bandits) dug up a loose ball deep in the defensive end and found TJ Comizio (Villanova ’19/Georgia Swarm) at the edge of the box. Comizio hit Spallina in stride coming out of box for a transition goal that gave USA White a 4-2 advantage going into halftime.

With Edwards winning faceoffs and goalie Gowah Abrams (New York Riptide) staying steady between the pipes, Snake Island could not mount a comeback in the second half. USA White extended the lead to 6-2 by the end of the third quarter and added three more goals in the fourth.

Spallina and Cole Kirst tied for the game high with four points apiece, each contributing two goals and two assists. Spallina iced the win on a sidearm skip shot from distance with 6:43 remaining.

USA White outscored its foes 44-15 over five games during the two-day tournament.

NORTH AMERICAN INVITATIONAL

Consolation Semifinal

Rochester Bats def. USA Blue 6-4

7th Place Game

USA Blue def. Grand Iron Rivermen 10-3

Championship Semifinal

USA White def. Frog Pond Maulers 13-2

Championship Game

USA White def. Snake Island Muskies 9-2

Most Valuable Player

CJ Kirst, USA White