Tyler Plante’s big smile after the Vernon Tigers’ 9-7 Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League win over the visiting Kelowna Raiders Saturday night was a combination of happiness and relief.
Plante picked up his first-ever junior lacrosse head coaching victory at Kal Tire Place with Tigers’ regular bench boss Chris Scabar away in Langley leading Team Interior at the Team B.C. midget division tryouts.
“Happy with the win, yes, but it was a battle and a struggle,” said Plante. “Kelowna had a short bench and they fought hard to the end. They made it a game.”
A goal by Jordy Barr gave Vernon an 8-5 lead with 12 minutes to go, but two of second star Nick Alcorn’s four goals on the game, 50 seconds apart, pulled Kelowna to within one with half a period remaining.
Kyle Cuzzetto restored the two-goal lead 42 seconds after Alcorn’s fourth, and the Tigers then killed off a pair of late minor penalties late in the game to preserve their 8-0 season.
“Our specialty teams were good tonight,” said Plante as the Tigers killed off all four Raiders’ powerplays, and went 3-for-3 with the man advantage.
First star Brock Wagner supplied two goals while third star Thomas Landels, Ryan Sarazin, Jordan Orr, Jay Seaton and Liam MacPhee had the other goals for Vernon, who led 2-0 after one and 6-4 after two periods.
Aaron Jensen made 47 saves in goal for the Tigers while Tristan Parece stopped 50 for the Raiders (1-5-1). Both teams were missing six regulars.
The game was the first of three consecutive meetings between the two teams, who face off Thursday in Kelowna and again Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Kal Tire Place.
The Armstrong Shamrocks moved to within one point of third-place Kamloops Venom by downing the second-place South Okanagan Flames 16-12 Friday night at the Nor-Val Sports Centre.
Keith Minnis led the 3-6-0 Shamrocks with five goals while Owen Barker added 3+5 and Joel Castle chipped in 2+5 as Armstrong outshot the Flames 49-45.
Sam Hanley (2+2), Tyson Fair (1+4), Keegan Castle (1+2), Todd Hoggarth and Nich Yadernuk had the other goals for Armstrong, who outscored the Flames 4-1 in the middle frame after each team erupted for six goals in the opening period.
Chris Pond had three goals and six assists for the Flames (4-5-0).
Cole Macfarlane made 33 saves in goal for the Shamrocks, who host the Venom (3-2-1) Friday in Salmon Arm, 7:30 p.m. at the Shaw Centre. The Shamrocks lead the TOJLL in goals with 105 and goals allowed with 114.