It came down to the last game, but the Vernon Tigers earned their first .500 season in three years.
Robbie Short and Shane Sargent each fired a pair of goals as the Cats iced the Kamloops Rattlers 6-5 in the Okanagan X-treme Lacrosse League regular-season finale Wednesday night at Wesbild Centre.
Tanner Skolrood and junior call-up Brennan Plante each chipped in with singles as Vernon rallied from a 3-1 first-period deficit. They led 5-3 after 40 minutes.
Cats’ netminder Glen Clissold was steady in collecting second-star honours behind Sargent.
“It was a very good game; fast paced and hard hitting on both sides,” said Tigers’ head coach Lawrie Skolrood.
Vernon finished tied with the Armstrong Shamrocks for second place at 6-6.
“To actually have some wins under our belt, it feels good,” said Vernon assistant coach Steve Latimer, who credited callups Plante, Jay Seaton, Braden Barr and Theo Wagner for playing solid games.
The Rocks will hold home-floor advantage in a best-of-three Shaw Cup semifinal series with the Tigers, as they won the season series 3-1.
They host Game 1 Tuesday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
“It’s always a good series when we play Armstrong. It’s great for the fans, and with it being so close, it’s great for our players,” said Skolrood.
“It’ll be a good test. If we can handle Armstrong, we can take a run at (the winner of the Kelowna Raiders-Rattlers semi).”
Said Shamrocks’ netminder Chad Pieper: “Armstrong and Vernon in the playoffs, it doesn’t get better than that. Vernon has improved their game very well this season, so we will have to be at the top of our game to knock them off.”
Asked what the difference in the Tigers’ play has been this season, Latimer replied: “Back to basics. It’s a fairly simple game – you catch, you pass, you shoot.
“Glen has been terrific in net for us, and guys have been playing their roles perfectly.”
The four OXLL teams combined to play 48 games, with just four points separating the first-place Raiders (7-5) from the last-place Rattlers (5-7).
Latimer says the parity shown in the standings is good for the league.
“Anyone can win on any given night. You go into any game thinking you’ve got a shot. It’s nice to have that confidence and know we’re not going to get walked on.”