SIX SHOOTER: Zach Currier heads upfield against Yale in 2017 during his senior season for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team. Star midfielder Currier helped Canada take gold last month at the World Lacrosse Sixes tournament at The World Games in Birmingham, Ala. Currier tallied five goals in the gold medal final as Canada defeated the U.S. 23-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Justin Feil
Zach Currier has been adding lacrosse titles each year since graduating from Princeton University in 2017.
Indoor. Outdoor. Major League Lacrosse. National Lacrosse League. And the Mann Cup for senior men’s box lacrosse in Canada.
Last month, the former All-America midfielder for the Tiger men’s lacrosse program added another championship in the newest version of the sport. Currier scored five goals to pace Canada to a 23-9 win over the United States, which included former Princeton star Tom Schreiber ’14, in the gold medal game of the inaugural World Lacrosse Sixes at The World Games in Birmingham, Ala., on July 12.
“I was pretty happy with the win,” said Currier, a native of Peterborough, Ontario. “I know it’s been perceived as a bit of a funky format for most native lacrosse fans, but I also think at the same time it’s the way that the Olympic committee thought we had to go to make the game more acceptable to the countries that it might not be more common on.”
The Sixes discipline was created to interest Olympic organizers by modifying the traditional game of lacrosse. Sixes is played on a smaller field, six-on-six, with a shorter shot clock and modification designed to speed up the pace of play. World Lacrosse would like to see the Sixes version in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
“It was cool to be in the first event and be a part of Team Canada,” said Currier. “Hopefully in 50 years when this is in the Olympics, people can look back and see my name on that roster and that would be a pretty cool thing.”
Currier’s name on a championship roster is nothing new. His name has become a significant force in the sport that he is deeply entrenched in from a variety of angles. He is working on a new collective bargaining agreement as president of the NLL Players Association, a position he has held since 2020. When he isn’t playing, that job takes up a lot of his time and energy. He also still works in product design for Warrior Lacrosse. And he works at building his skills and developing his game with no plans of exiting the game any time soon.
“I would like to play this game until I’m 40 years old,” said the 6’0, 180-pound Currier, who is competing for the Waterdogs of the Premier Lacrosse League this summer. “I hope that I’ve not peaked. There are things in my game that can be improved all over the place, whether that’s my shooting, my passing, my dodging, and even on the mental side of things, I’ve always been a guy who’s struggled to control my emotions. It’s taken me 28 years to figure out how I can redirect those emotions and save some energy, and I think it’s been very helpful for me.”
Currier’s maturation has only made him a stronger player. He was named a PLL all-star this summer, the fifth time in five seasons that he has been named an all-star at the professional outdoor level. He remains a standout this year for the Waterdogs, who selected him with their first pick in 2020, three years after his pro career began.
“I feel like I just graduated last year, and then I turn around this past summer and I’m at my fifth reunion,” said Currier. “It’s pretty crazy that it’s been that long since I’ve been at Princeton. I was fortunate to have a great coaching staff and a great, great group of guys that I was able to play with four years. I still feel support from those guys when I play in the pro level, even though there’s only a couple of us that have made the jump.”
Currier followed Princeton’s run to the NCAA men’s lax Final Four last spring. He was pleased to be on hand at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y. to witness the Tigers’ win over Yale to reach the national semifinals.
“I was in the stands for that one,” said Currier. “It was pretty awesome to see them on that stage, back to where Princeton lacrosse belongs. I wish I could have been there in my time, but unfortunately we weren’t. I still feel like a part of it a bit. Coach [Matt] Madalon was head coach for his first year my senior year.”
Currier continues to set the bar high among Princeton products. He ranked sixth in the PLL in ground balls with 28 halfway through the season. He had eight ground balls along with a goal and two assists in the Waterdogs’ 15-14 win over the Cannons last Sunday as they improved to 4-3.
“I see a lot of potential,” said Currier, who has another former Princeton player, Michael Sowers ’20, as a Waterdogs teammate. “I think we’ve taken a lot of time to try to build the chemistry among our team. Last year, we were struggling at the start and then we figured it out and were a second-half team. We’re really hopeful we can do the same sort of thing this year.”
Currier is a veteran who brings experience, passion and talent to his teams. His two-way skills make him valuable to any of his teams. His game made him perfectly crafted for the Sixes version of the sport.
“I thought it is really tailored toward the fast-paced, two-way players,” said Currier. “Fortunately I fall into that category so it did suit my game pretty well. The fact that all of Canadians grew up playing box lacrosse where we’re on both sides of the ball playing offense and defense and at least learning the basic principles before we go and specialize in field lacrosse or in junior when we go on offense and defense. So, we at least know the basics. I think that part really helped us.”
Having grown up in Ontario, Currier idolized another Peterborough product – John Grant Jr. Now he finds himself, like Grant Jr., playing and winning for their hometown Peterborough Lakers, the Mann Cup box lacrosse champions. He’s found his roots benefiting him at each level. In the Sixes gold medal game, he got Canada off to a strong start with a pair of breakaway goals to begin the game.
“That was more of box lacrosse instincts,” said Currier. “I’m covering a guy and I know once he shoots, the ball is either going in the net which is our ball, it’s a save which is our ball, or it’s going wide which is our ball. So, I’m kind of reacting. I was covering a guy up top, and as soon as I see that shot get taken, I know I’m getting up the field and the ball is coming to me or I’m dragging somebody with me and it creates an easier breakout for us.”
Canada never looked back. They dominated for the championship. Currier credited the coaching staff with selecting good personnel for their Sixes roster and making adjustments through the World Games. Canada became a bit more selective with their shooting, and the results made them almost unstoppable.
“From the first game to the fifth game our style pretty well completely changed,” said Currier. “In the first game, you’re stepping over the midline and thinking, I can shoot this ball. In field lacrosse, you’re probably going to shoot it. The only issue is if you miss, it’s a turnover. We were taking those shots in Game 1, and we weren’t as the tournament went on. I think our shooting percentage was around 75 percent in that last game, which is a pretty ridiculous stat.”
Playing in the Sixes in the midst of the PLL season took some adjusting. In addition to the shot selection being vastly different in the two disciplines, and the heat of Alabama, the teams had to adjust to a new mix of players playing a new version of the sport together. Currier has proven able to make adjustments well to a variety of levels of lacrosse, and that has kept him playing at the top of the sport after graduating from Princeton.
“It feels really similar, it’s just with a different group of guys,” said Currier. “In terms of the on-field stuff, everyone is so dialed in and so good that it kind of forces you to up your compete level. It’s the same thing at school, but it’s brought to another level when it’s the pros because you’re not on the field five days a week with your team pushing you. It’s all on you and you see each other on Friday, Saturday, and then you go home Sunday and then Monday to Thursday it’s on you if you’re getting to a field and getting your workouts in.”
Currier is working to remain at the top of his game. He is hopeful that he will be a part of Team Canada field lacrosse roster again for the 2023 World Lacrosse Championships in San Diego, Calif., next summer. He looks forward to each chance to play professionally and for his country.
“It’s really cool,” said Currier. “Growing up, I was a Lakers fan and a Team Canada fan. And I didn’t know too much about the NLL or the MLL. To be able to put on both of those jerseys and win championships is a pretty special thing.”