The latest chapter in the Vernon Tigers-Kamloops Venom playoff rivalry resembles the previous one.
The Venom took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League final into Game 3 Tuesday night at Kal Tire Place looking to win its second straight league title and third championship in five years over the Tigers.
The defending champion Venom – making their 10th straight league final appearance – won the first two games of last year’s final before the Tigers clawed back to force a fifth and deciding game at Kal Tire Place, which Kamloops won 15-14.
The two teams have met in each of the last five championship series with each team winning twice.
This year’s script has the Venom out in front following a 14-11 win Sunday at Kamloops Memorial Arena, 24 hours after a 9-5 decision in the series opener at Kal Tire Place.
“Kamloops has outworked us,” said Tigers sniper Jordy Barr. “They’ve won all the faceoffs, all the battles for the loose balls.”
Kamloops has yet to lose in the post-season. Both teams swept their league semifinal series.
The second period has been great for Kamloops in the series, and awful for Vernon, who beat the Venom three out of four times in the regular season.
The Venom scored nine times in the middle frame Sunday, turning a 3-1 Tigers lead into a 10-7 Kamloops edge heading into the third period, and extended a 1-0 first period advantage Saturday to 8-4 after 40 minutes with a seven-goal outburst.
Kyle Pauwels led the Venom with five goals Sunday.
Ryan Sarazin had four markers for the Tigers, Barr added two and singles came from Jake Pelletier, Jordan Orr, Thomas Landels, Quintin Harrish and Chase Wirth.
Vernon chased Kamloops starting goalie Dalan Etter, who was the first star in Game 1 with 49 saves and who essentially blanked the Tigers for 52 minutes. Matt Hans – who was knocked out of the semifinal series with the South Okanagan Flames with a concussion – finished the contest.
Darnell Hauca, who made 50 saves for the Tigers in Game 1 to earn second star honours, made 38 saves.
The Venom became the first team this season to hold the Tigers scoreless in a period when they blanked Vernon in the opening 20 minutes Saturday.
Monty Chisholm, the game’s third star, had two goals for Kamloops and Pauwels added 2+3.
Tylor Seabrooke chipped in four assists.
Harrish led the regular season champion Tigers with 1+3, Sarazin had 1+2 while other goals went to Conor Webb, Brett Olsen and Barr.
Orr hit five goalposts behind Etter.
“Last year, we started off slow and we let down both defensively and offensively, and it’s happening again,” said Barr. “But we still feel we’re the top team and we feel we have what it takes to get back in the series.”
This year’s winner will represent the TOJLL at the Provincial Junior B championships starting July 28 in Coquitlam.