It’s only pre-season but something about the Armstrong Shamrocks playing the Vernon Tigers in Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League action brings out the best in both teams.
Such was the case in the opener of the Archie Jack Memorial Ice Breaker tournament Saturday at Hassen Memorial Arena, where a large crowd packed the wooden bleachers to watch the Shamrocks and Tigers play to a thrilling 9-9 tie.
“I was really impressed by the way our team built confidence, momentum and intensity as the game progressed,” said Shamrocks’ head coach Ryan Nitchie.
“Our veteran leadership stepped up and helped our great group of younger players and that really is what we expect of them this season.”
Vernon led 5-2 after the opening period but after some defensive corrections and settling down an excited offence, the Rocks rallied, trailing 6-4 after 40 minutes.
The third period was a classic Shamrocks versus Tigers affair with the home team gaining momentum as the period progressed.
With just over a minute remaining, trailing 9-8, the Shamrocks called a time out to set a play. The Rocks executed with some creative license and Brayden Hoggarth popped around the net to the left-side crease and buried a pin-point pass to equalize.
Owen Barker led Armstrong with 5+2, while Brett Hawrys added 2+2 and Hoggarth and Sam Hanley rounded out the scoring to support a solid Cole Macfarlane.
Darrell Landels and Steele Pelletier each had three goals for the Tigers, with singles going to Jordan Orr, Jay Seaton and Braden Barr in support of goalie Jeremy Gray, who made his Tiger debut.
“Jeremy was great, he did really well,” said Tigers’ rookie head coach Chris Scabar, of the 6-foot-5, 280-pounder out of Coquitlam.
“The team did really well. We held our own against Armstrong. I played a lot of younger guys and we’re only going to get stronger.”
Both teams won their second games of the one-day icebreaker.
Armstrong dominated the defending regular-season champion Kamloops Venom 10-4 behind three goals from Hanley, two from Keith Minnis and singles from Joel Castle, Hoggarth, Colby Erikson, Austin Williamson and Barker, who chipped in three assists.
Hawrys, stymied all game by Kamloops netminder Dalan Etter on efforts to score, set up six goals.
Calvin Davyduke picked up the win in net for the Shamrocks.
“We tightened up our defensive system nicely that game, guys were staying at home and not chasing as much,” said Armstrong assistant coach Chad Pieper.
“They are a very big physical team and we needed to adjust to handle that physicality and we did by limiting their sticks, and pressuring the ball to force turnovers.
The Tigers gave up five first-period goals, then rallied to beat the South Okanagan Flames 9-8 with Seaton pulling a hat trick. Landels scored twice and set up two others, and singles went to Pelletier, Jordan Orr, Brock Wagner and Brett Olsen.
Midget rookie Darnell Hauca got the start in goal for Vernon.
“The guys never showed up to play for Darnell until the second and third period, then pulled out the win,” said Scabar, who is helped on the bench by assistant coach Tyler Plante, benchmen Rob Seaton and Wes Landels, and off-floor by physiotherapist Leslie Landels and general manager Roxane Seaton.
Scabar praised the defensive efforts of Wagner and rookiesDominick Neilson and Chris Inscho.
The Tigers and Shamrocks kick off the regular season Friday, April 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the Nor-Val Sports Centre in Armstrong.
Vernon will play its first five league games on the road before its home opener Saturday, May 23, at Kal Tire Place, against South Okanagan.