The South Okanagan Flames kicked off the 2014 Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse season going winless in two games during the ninth annual Archie Jack Memorial Ice Breaker tournament in Armstrong.
With 10 runners, the Flames bowed to the Vernon Tigers 8-5, then lost to the Kamloops Venom 7-3.
Kevin Thompson, who took over the coaching duties from Alex Gerk, said his experienced players were strong and the younger group stepped up in their first ever game.
“They just worked really well together. They played really hard,” said Thompson.
What the Flames learned about their team during the weekend is they will have strong goaltending. Charles Nicholas was a wall and played aggressively on the offensive side getting the ball to his outlets. Thompson said he also made some great saves.
“Even the other teams and spectators coming up to me after just saying how incredible that goalie was,” said Thompson.
Along with giving praise to Nicholas, Thompson liked the play of Connor Walton, who scored all the Flames goals in the first game.
“Just worked his butt off and got every loose ball,” said Thompson.
More players are expected to join the Flames once they are finished college and university. Thompson used the weekend to get a feel for the young and inexperienced group.
When it comes to coaching, Thompson has eight years experience behind the bench and played in Ontario.
The routine for him and his friends was to play hockey, then once the season was over, the gear was tossed in the basement and replaced with lacrosse equipment.
“You’d put on the lacrosse gear, you’d play lacrosse until the ice went back on the floor,” he said.
He’s excited about returning to the bench and missed the relationship with players.
“I could work them as hard as I could, and they just thrived on it,” said Thompson. “They loved it. It’s just a great relationship. The camaraderie and challenge of competition whether you win or lose. I’m a firm believer that if you give 100 per cent, and you lose on the scoreboard, you’re still a winner and vice versa.”
Thompson will be assisted by Carl Walton who has been involved with Penticton Minor Lacrosse and Prince George Cougars coach Mark Holick. Thompson said that Holick knows how to motivate and get the best out of the players.
“He’s going to be a great asset for the team,” said Thompson.
As for the roster, Thompson’s sons Levi and Tanner are returning, while Holick’s son Cooper, who played junior B hockey for the Summerland Sting, is also playing. Thompson said his son set up a Faceboook page to put the word out for players. Within five days they had 18 or 19 player commitments. That number is now at 22.
“We’re trying to resurrect the whole feeling on the Flames,” he said. “Great sport to come out and watch. It’s called the fastest game on two feet for a reason. It’s a fantastic game.”
The Flames open the regular season at home in Memorial Arena on April 28 against the Kelowna Raiders.