Their regular-season records might show otherwise, but there hasn’t been much to choose between the Vernon Re/Max Tigers and Kamloops Venom in the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League finals.
After dropping the best-of-five series opener in overtime Monday, the Venom, who dominated the TOJLL at 14-1-1, needed a third-period rally to upend the Tigers 9-8 in Game 2 Wednesday night at Wesbild Centre.
Game 3 goes Monday at Kamloops Memorial Arena, and Game 4 is Wednesday at Wesbild.
Aside from some defensive miscues in front of netminder Josh Point in the third period, the Tigers, regular season runners-up at 8-6-2, matched up well against the Venom. They took a one-goal lead into the final frame, but gave up unanswered goals to captain Riley Donahue and Kyle Pauwels, both on rebounds from in close, and Blaine Boomer, and never recovered.
“We made some key errors on the defensive end that cost us those goals,” said Vernon head coach Myles Brumpton.
“They’ve got to clamp down first on the stick, and that’s one thing you see Kamloops doing. If they would have done that, they probably would have saved two out of those three goals right there.
“We didn’t expect to sweep them, but it would have been nice to win at home and go up 2-0.”
Vernon’s Mike Quarin and Kamloops’ Chris Case swapped singles later in the third period, and with Point pulled for an extra attacker, Ryan Landels cut the lead to one with 20 seconds to play with his third goal of the night.
“We played a really good game; both teams did,” said Landels, first star. “We had a couple unlucky breaks and it came down to putting the ball in the net. We couldn’t bury any in the last part there.
“We’d like to see a bit more movement on offence, and just talk it out when we get back on the bench. We need to see more production out of everybody.”
The Venom’s Quinn Smith opened the scoring just 54 seconds into the game, but Quarin and Nolan Frame, spinning off his check and firing, put Vernon in front at the 8:08 mark.
Singles by Landels and Craig Bigsby, and the Venom’s Case and Boomer, had it knotted 4-4 after the first period.
Point, who hadn’t played with the Tigers since the beginning of the season, looked a little shaky in the early going, but stood tall once he settled down and recorded 39 stops. Big Mitch Horsman made 44 saves for Kamloops.
“He watched last game so he had a chance to see their shooters,” said Brumpton, of Point. “He came in and played real well; he had good angles.”
Landels and Frame, both picking the top left corner, clicked for Vernon in the second period. Jerome Thorne, diving fully outstretched through the crease, answered for Kamloops.
Donahue, the game’s third star, liked his team’s response after Monday’s loss.
“We got beat in the last game and we needed that to open our eyes a little bit,” said the Venom captain. “We came out a little harder and wanted it a bit more tonight. It’s just hard work and wanting it more and respecting the other team.”
Added Kamloops’ head coach Doug Clark: “Part of that (win) was us breaking them down a bit defensively. We were getting to the net and being aggressive.
“We need to play with the same energy and desire that Vernon plays with. If we do that, we have a good chance to win most nights.”