Morning Star Staff
Another year, another Thompson-Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League championship series between the Vernon Tigers and Kamloops Venom.
The best-of-five series starts Saturday night at Kal Tire Place (7:30) with Game 2 Sunday at Kamloops Memorial Arena. The third game is Tuesday in Vernon.
Game 4, if required, will go Thursday, July 21 in Kamloops. A fifth game will be played Saturday, July 23 at the Nor-Val Sports Centre in Armstrong due to the Okanagan Military Tattoo event at Kal Tire Place.
This will be the fifth straight year the Tigers and Venom have met for the league championship, each team winning twice in that span; the Tigers in ’13 and ’14 and the Venom in ’12 and ’15.
Kamloops has been in every league final since 2009. The series winner moves to the provincials, July 29-Aug. 1, in Coquitlam. Kamloops swept the South Okanagan Flames in three games in the other semifinal series, winning 10-6 Saturday at Memorial.
Vernon finished the regular campaign by grounding the Armstrong Shamrocks 21-8 Saturday night at home.
Liam Macphee led Vernon with four goals, while Jordan Orr counted 3+2 and Jordy Barr produced 2+5.
Thomas Landels, Chase Wirth, Kolten Kirschner, Ethan Anderson and Ryan Sarazin pocketed deuces, while singles went to Nick Mann and Steele Pelletier. Conor Webb racked up three assists, while Kirschner had two.
Sarazin, a former field lacrosse player with the NCAA Marquette Golden Eagles, missed eight games with a thumb injury. He had two helpers.
Chase Bronson and Sam Hanley had two goals each for Armstrong, while Ryan Martin had 1+3. Singles went to Colton Greeno, Hamish Crick and Jayke Cowie.
The Shamrocks started the game with 12 runners and goalie Francois Leroux. Leroux suffered a lower body injury in the last minute of the first period and runner Mykl Drabiuk played net for the final two periods.
Vernon outshot Armstrong 58-6 with Darnell Hauca taking the win. Play went running time for final 25:36 after Vernon’s 14th goal.
Last year, the final saw the Tigers enjoy home-court advantage with Dalan Etter’s stellar goalkeeping the difference.
The Venom hope this season ends the same way, too.
“It’s definitely déjà vu,” said Venom captain Riley Peterson, the club’s offensive leader.
“It’s crazy it has already been a year again and we’re playing this team in their home barn the first game.”
The Flames brought a physical game and Kamloops might be without goalkeeper Matt Hans for the series against Vernon after tempers boiled over in Game 2. A Flames’ player ran Hans in the final minutes of that game, sending the goalie to a nearby hospital.
He was diagnosed with a concussion and he’s doubtful.
“Game 2 in Oliver, that was a big game we had to win and we really came through in the third period. I couldn’t be happier with the boys right now,” said Peterson. “That’s when it started getting out of control.”
Etter was in a similar situation in 2015, when goalkeeper Mitch Horsman went down with a concussion in Game 4 of the TOJLL championship. Etter had torn his hamstring in Game 3 of the series, but made a triumphant return as Kamloops’ only option between the pipes, leading his team to a 15-14 victory.