Back-to-back wins have the Armstrong Shamrocks entrenched in second place in the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League standings.
Following a 9-3 Thursday-night win over the Vernon Tigers, the baby Rocks opened a three-game home stand Saturday with a 6-1 win over the defending league champion Kamloops Venom 6-1 at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
Playing lock-down defence in front of Quinn Braybrook, the Shamrocks opened the scoring when Cullen Rowen cut to the front of the net and buried a shot low for the first of his two goals.
Owen Barker sniped a powerplay goal for the Rocks (4-3-1), who then killed off two minor penalties to Brandon McGregor and a four-minute backchecking penalty to Brad Wolgram to lead 2-0 after the first period.
Shamrocks’ bench boss and newly anointed grandfather, Pat Nelson, was beaming after Armstrong’s first home victory of the year.
“We played three outstanding periods of lacrosse tonight and the boys were rewarded with a very well-earned win,” said Nelson. “We are really coming together as a team and with our skill level, team commitment and attitude we have all the pieces to be successful. I just couldn’t be happier with the way we played tonight.”
Rowan fired a top-corner shot over the Venom goalie’s right shoulder to open the second period assault, and Brett Hawrys posted the first of his two on the night, sliding into the open space and finding the back of the net.
Kamloops’ Jake Latin scored midway through the period to make it 4-1 after 40 minutes.
The Rocks closed out the game by shutting down the Venom (2-5-1) sniping trio of Ben Saklofsky, Blaine Boomer and Riley Donahue, who could not overcome the Shamrocks’ tight zone defence or the quick sticks of their short man unit, led by Carston Schlaak and Willy Hanley.
With the Venom goaltender pulled, an errant Kamloops shot bounced back towards the Venom net and rested in the mesh for an empty-net goal, credited to Hawrys.
Armstrong defensive coordinator Glenn (Stumpy) Mitchell was pleased with the team defence.
“Our dee guys were checking hard and playing position and really challenging their shooters, and the transition guys hustled back and they all worked as a defensive unit to help out Quinn,” said Mitchell.
“We left them with almost all outside shots that Quinn was able to see and if we did make a mistake defensively, Quinn stood tall in the pipes and made the stop. That’s all we ask for,” chuckled Mitchell.
Despite scoring just six goals, offensive coordinator Jim (Myth) Maundrell praised his attackers.
“We had a lot of shots on goal tonight and their goalie played really well to stop some of our shooters but we were moving on offence, hustling for loose balls after shots and really using our run-and-gun system to keep their defence off balance,” said Maundrell.
“We still have some work to do with our powerplay unit but we have a lot of rookies and it takes a while to build chemistry with a special teams unit. I’m confident that we will build and get better as the season progresses.”
The Shamrocks continue their home stand tonight (7:30) with their first season meeting with the Kamloops Rattlers at the Nor-Val.
Then the baby Shamrocks will team up with the senior Rocks for Lacrosse Night in Lacrosseville, an annual doubleheader extravaganza with the Vernon Tiger teams.
The junior squads will battle at 6 p.m., followed immediately by the senior teams, roughly 8 p.m.
The teams will be promoting the Kraft Celebration Tour contest with a pre-game barbecue at the Rotary Plaza in support of the TSN and Kraft Foods 10 in 10 promotional contest with the hopes of winning a $25,000 renovation grant for the Hassen Memorial Arena and a live TSN Sportcentre broadcast from their community.
Meanwhile, the Vernon Re/Max Tigers’ offence sputtered after a solid start in a 7-3 loss to the host Rattlers at McArthur Island Sports Complex.
Riley Soleway, Craig Bigsby and rookie Darrell Landels handled Vernon’s attack.
“We generated three goals in the first period, but were blanked in the second and third,” said assistant coach Dave McWhirter.
“We’re not getting enough offence to match our solid defence,” he added.
McWhirter said a heavy veteran turnover and influx of first-year players have the Tigers still trying to adjust this season.
“We’re still trying to find our identity, and we’re still trying to get all facets under control,” he said.
“It’s not a lack of effort, but sometimes we’re breaking down mentally. Sometimes a team will go on a run and we’re not able to match it.”