Two lines of non-stop hustle versus a full squad following well-drilled systems made for an exciting matchup Friday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
Buoyed by the extra support of Armstrong Shamrocks alumni night, the shorthanded Rocks pushed the Vernon Source For Sports Tigers early, only to fall 7-5 in Game 2 of their Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League semifinal series.
Vernon hosted Game 3 of the best-of-five set Saturday at Kal Tire Place. If necessary, Game four would go Monday night (7:30) at Nor-Val.
Playing with two lines and change, Armstrong took a 2-0 lead to the first intermission on singles by Sam Hanley and Brody Berg.
“They came out very well,” said Vernon assistant coach Keith Hanna, of Armstrong. “They had a lot of momentum from their alumni night here, so that really worked in their favour. They’re a never-quit team anyhow.
“But there’s no panic in our team. Our guys know our systems and once they play that, they’ll eventually get through and get some goals up front.”
The No. 2-seeded Tigers responded with a four-goal second period, offence coming from Liam Macphee, Jordan Orr, Nolan Frame and Brett Hanna. Adam New and Stephen Ringdal countered for the No. 3 Shamrocks to make it 4-4 heading into the final period.
Willy Hanley spun off a check and beat netminder Joel Fruncillo (37 saves) from in close to put the hosts ahead early in the frame, but Vernon stormed back with three unanswered goals, two on the man advantage, to secure the win.
Orr provided the equalizer with a snipe from the top of the circle on the powerplay, and Frame netted the winner on a terrific dive through the crease.
Quinton Harrish added insurance on the powerplay, beating Josh Point (27 saves) after the Tigers’ Craig Bigsby intercepted the Armstrong keeper’s clearance attempt.
Armstrong head coach Bryan Cope praised his players’ effort, but said they were too fatigued to capitalize on scoring chances after Vernon’s third-period barrage.
“We were being too tight on our sticks on offence,” he said. “We were doing the right things, we were getting the rebounds, but we were starting to tighten up, especially being down a goal.”
Meanwhile, the No. 1 Kelowna Raiders grounded the No. 4 Kamloops Venom in Game 1 of their semifinal Thursday. Game 2 went Saturday.