The Vernon Re/Max Tigers have an opportunity to advance to the second round of the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League playoffs tonight.
The fortunate thing for them is they can do it in front of a home crowd after a scheduling conflict in Penticton left the South Okanagan Flames with no better option than to play Game 2 of the best-of-three series at Wesbild Centre (7:30 p.m.).
If necessary, Game 3 would go Thursday at Civic Arena.
The Cats’ Nolan Frame played setup man Monday night, pocketing a goal and four helpers as Vernon pummeled the shortbenched Flames 10-2 in Game 1 at Wesbild.
“It’s (offence) finally moving. It’s kind of slow still, but there’s always stuff to work on,” said Frame, adding the team focussed mainly on shooting, running picks and its overall play in the offensive zone leading up to this series.
“We have to work at moving the ball faster on the powerplay. Our powerplay was working tonight, but it can always be better.”
Originally, Game 2 was slated for Oliver Arena because the ice is being put in for summer hockey camps in the Flames’ home rink in Penticton, but the Oliver building had problems with the floor.
“It’s definitely a bonus how that came about. Rumour has it we were going to play in Princeton. That would have been a good three-and-a-half hour bus ride for us. They (Flames) could have stuck it to us but they didn’t, so we’re trying to accommodate them as best we can,” said Tigers’ head coach Myles Brumpton.
“This’ll be their arena. We’ll give them home bench if they want it.”
Mitch Steele put the Cats on the board less than two minutes into the first period Monday. Later singles by Craig Bigsby (second star) and Riley Soleway made it 3-0 before Mitch Walton answered for the Flames late in the frame.
Frame set up Midget call-up Jordan Orr for a gorgeous backdoor one-timer eight minutes into the second frame, but Ryan Harms cut Vernon’s lead to two with a goal on a rush at 13:57.
Bayne Bosquet, capping a gorgeous three-way passing play between Jay Seaton and Ryan Oliverius, completed the second period scoring at 18:11.
“Altogether we gelled pretty well and put together a good effort. We had a good mindset coming in here and we were pretty well rested after the week off,” said Bosquet, noting the week-long rest gave injured Tigers Brett Hanna, Riley Soleway and several other key players a chance to get back in the lineup.
Brumpton, who is expecting the birth of his third child any day now, thought the Tigers lacked intensity at the start, but credited them for coming on strong as the game progressed.
“I think our guys looked across the bench and saw 14 guys and took them a little lightly. Thankfully our goalie (call-up Tyler Landry) kept us in it,” he said.
“I’m treating him very similar to Brodie MacDonald (former Tigers’ star goalie). He’s a first-year Midget and we’ve had goalie issues all year. It was a last-minute decision and it turned out to be a good decision.
“We asked the guys to buckle down and they did. Our last 10 minutes of the third period was probably our best play of the game.”
With the Flames’ energy levels waning, Vernon surged in the third period, recording five unanswered goals.
Orr (first star), with his second of the game, Bigsby, with a rocket from the top of the circle, and Frame, taking a nice dish-off from Steele, made it 8-2 before the period was half over.
Soleway, receiving a slick backdoor pass from Bigsby, and Aaron Green, converting on a breakaway with eight seconds to play, completed the offence.
“Looking at them through the handshake, their eyes told me they didn’t want to come back here Wednesday night. So if the boys are smart, they put their foot on their throat and close it out (in Game 2),” said Brumpton.
Flames’ head coach Tony Ramsay couldn’t fault his team’s effort in the early going, but knows he’ll need a full lineup to have a chance at pushing the series to third game.
“With the short bench the guys played well in the first and second period. As the game wore on, you need a full bench to go a full 60 minutes,” said Ramsay.
“Vernon’s a good team and you have to have full strength to be able to compete with them.”
Meanwhile, in the other TOJLL quarterfinal, the Kamloops Venom swept cross-town rival Kamloops Rattlers in their best-of-three.
The Venom iced the Rattlers 8-7 in overtime in Game 1, and put the series away with a 9-7 win in Game 2 Thursday night at McArthur Island Sports Complex.
They will face the second-place Armstrong Shamrocks in the second round, while the winner of the Vernon-South Okanagan series will advance to meet the first-place Kelowna Raiders in the other semi.
Both the Raiders and Shamrocks earned first-round byes.