For the first time in their franchise history, the South Okanagan Flames will be playing in the Thompson-Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League finals.
The Flames defeated the Vernon Tigers 10-8 on Wednesday evening in Oliver, clinching the semi-final playoff series. They now move to the finals where they will face the Kamloops Venom.
“It feels great. We have never made it this far in this league before, so it is awesome. We are going to ride it high for the night,” said Flames captain Jake Macleod.
“I have no worries moving forward, I just want the boys to go out there and work hard and hopefully we can come out with three wins in the Kamloops series.”
Knotted 4-4 after the first period, the Flames took command of the game in the middle frame. Flames goaltender Connor Ramage kept the Tigers to just one goal, which came off the stick of Kael Black. Offensively the Flames put another four goals on the scoreboard thanks to Logan Cote, Cairo Rogers, Alex Nimmo and Liam McClaren.
While the Tigers pounced back in the third period to keep it a tight match on the scoresheet, the Flames were able to keep them at bay.
“All season it was back and forth with these guys. I think, finally, we just figured it out in the playoffs how to work together and play our own game and not let them completely take over,” said Flames forward Liam McLaren.
Tigers coach Ryan Minchenko said their offence simply came up short.
“The other team moved the ball really well and their goaltending was outstanding. At the end of the day, they just outplayed us. I think they know that, we know that and for our guys it is a tough pill to swallow,” he said.
For the Flames, it has been a long march in their franchise history to finally get to the league championship — 11 playoff series’ and 20 seasons to be exact.
“It is a great feeling. They earned it this year. It wasn’t easy but we made it. Vernon gave us a good challenge in the first and last game here,” said coach Craig Macleod.
The best-of-five finals start in Kamloops on Friday July 12. Other games will be played on July 14 and 16 and, if necessary, July 18 and 20.
In seven regular season match-ups, the Venom have the upper-hand winning six of them. The lone Flames victory over the Venom came in their last game of the regular season, an 18-10 win.
“I think our defence has been pretty strong and we have had strong goaltending. We really rely on those guys on the back end. On the front end, we have to get them to keep their feet moving and get in tight and close. We need to cut through the greasy zones and do what we can to score,” said the Flames coach on what they will need to do in the final series to be successful.
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