Venom: Bruised and battered
The Kelowna Raiders’ skull-and-crossbones flag knifed through the air at Memorial Arena for the majority of Sunday’s Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League final matchup, a game the grey-clad squad from the Little Apple won 5-3 over the Kamloops Venom.
It was Game 4 of the best-of-five series — Kelowna’s win earned them a 3-1 series victory and a league championship title.
“It feels amazing,” Raiders’ captain Tyler French said minutes after the final whistle blew.
“I’ve played for five years and came close a couple times, so it’s great to finally do it, especially against the Venom, who knocked us out last year.”
The Venom were without seven regular runners, but Kamloops’ co-head coach Doug Clark was not making excuses after the game.
“Kelowna is a real good team,” Clark said.
“They’ve probably been the best in the league all year and they just showed it.”
Kelowna had the best regular-season record, finishing atop the standings at 13-2-0.
The Venom posted a 7-7-1 regular-season record before disposing of the Kamloops Rattlers and the Armstrong Shamrocks in the playoffs en route to the TOJLL final.
The TOJLL runners-up are hosting a four-team provincial championship tourney, which gets underway on Friday, July 29, at Memorial Arena.
Kamloops will get a shot at revenge when it opens the championship with a tilt against Kelowna.
That game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. start on Friday.
Clark said he expects to have a few regular starters back in the lineup — including injured captain Riley Donahue — for the rematch.
“We’ve still got more lacrosse to play,” Clark said.
“I don’t think we’re done yet.”
Kamloops entered the second period of Sunday’s game with a 3-1 lead after Kyle Gunn, Jeremy Bosher and Gage Deacon lit the lamp in the first period.
But, midway through the second frame, Kelowna gained momentum when Jordan Urban and Andrew McMillan tallied 25 seconds apart to knot the game at 3-3.
Third-period markers from Sheldon McDonald and Iain Hart sealed Kamloops’ fate. Brendan Urban notched Kelowna’s first-period goal.
Venom netminder Andrew Copeland, who led his squad to a provincial championship and a fourth-place finish at the national championship last year, was pulled after the fifth Raiders’ goal.
“It sucks,” said Copeland, who spoke to KTW outside the dejected Venom’s locker room.
“Kudos to them, though, they played well. It just wasn’t in the cards for us this year.
Copeland, whose replacement, Cody Mior, played 15 minutes of shutout lacrosse, said the Venom will put the loss behind them.
“We’ll be ready to go for provincials and we’ll go from there.”
The provincial final is scheduled for Sunday, July 31, at noon.