A hot goalie proved to be the difference between the Armstrong Shamrocks reaching the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League finals and an early offseason Saturday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
Netminder Andrew Copeland (24 saves) shut down the Armstrong attack as the Kamloops Venom earned a 6-3 win in the series-deciding Game 3 of the league semifinals.
The Venom visited the regular-season champion Kelowna Raiders for Game 1 of the best-of-five final Tuesday night at Memorial Arena.
“We just hit a really super-hot goalie. He was unreal,” said Shamrocks’ assistant coach Ryan Nitchie. “The intensity was there and we had lots of scoring opportunities.
“They played a more consistent game than us. Their defence played high pressure on our key guys all series long.”
Shamrock sniper Brett Hawrys opened the offence with a nice cut through the middle, giving his team a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Armstrong surrendered four straight goals, including a buzzer-beater, to trail 4-1 heading into the final frame. Braden James, Jeremy Bosher, Chris Case and Blaine Boomer supplied singles for the Venom.
Cullen Rowan, going in alone on a breakaway after stepping out of the penalty box, and Owen Barker completed the Armstrong attack in the third frame.
“You’d always like to go further, but we’re totally satisfied where we ended up,” said Irish head coach Pat Nelson.
“A big thank you to our fans and to those who support our club and lacrosse in general.”
With a roster of mainly 16- and 17-year-olds, Nelson was impressed with the Shamrocks’ season.
“It’s quite a different game coming out of Midget and going up against those older guys. We’re looking forward to next year.”
The Shamrocks lose captain Milan Marcetta, Kaz Boudreau and Brad Wolgram to graduation, but the bulk of their roster is returning.
“This will be a good learning experience for our guys. For a lot of them it was their first playoff experience playing in front of a big home crowd.”