The path to the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League title will run through the Tournament Capital, as the Kamloops Venom have locked up the No. 1-seed and home-floor advantage for the final.
Kamloops (8-2) sits atop league standings and cannot be caught by either the South Okanagan Flames of Penticton or Vernon Tigers.
The Flames (4-6-1) and Tigers (2-7-1) will clash in a best-of-three semifinal series, with the winner advancing to the best-of-five championship series.
Strong defence has been key to the Venom’s success this season. Kamloops has allowed 88 goals this season, 38 fewer than the Tigers and 59 fewer than the Flames.
“It’s just buy-in by everyone,” Venom head coach Liam Hagerty told KTW. “Everyone pays attention when we are working on our systems. Our vets have really led, with Ryan Wightman and Jay Fogarty back there.”
There is no love lost between the league’s three teams.
“There is some bad blood out there,” Hagerty said. “Our offensive guys play against their defensive guys all the time and vice versa. It starts getting chippier and chippier.
“It’s definitely boiled over a few times in the last few weeks, but overall, we’ve done a good job of keeping our discipline.”
Vernon, which knocked off visiting Kamloops 10-6 on Saturday, will host a rematch on Wednesday. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Kal-Tire-Place.
“We were missing about seven of our regulars,” Hagerty said, noting high school graduation ceremonies affected the lineup. “We had a good game, but their goalie played really well and our defence kind of faltered, with some new guys in the lineup. That’s the way she goes sometimes.”
Kamloops has four regular-season games remaining and will play next at home on Saturday, when South Okanagan comes to town. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Arena.
The TOJLL champion will advance to play the winner of the B.C. Tier 1 Junior Lacrosse League in the provincial final, with a format still to be determined.