Head coach Ryan Minchenko urged his team to focus on five-on-five play in the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League playoff final series.
The Vernon Source For Sports Tigers listened well and watched the Kamloops Venom self-destruct in a 20-7 win Tuesday night before 550 fans at Memorial Arena. The Tigers lead the best-of-five championship 2-0 with Game 3 Thursday night at Kal Tire Place.
“That’s the key to this game,” Minchenko said in a post-game interview. “We knew coming into this series they’re all about trying to intimidate the other team. As far as I’m concerned, we probably have the toughest team in the league and we don’t need to get into it with them. We let our ball movement do the work.”
Kamloops, who failed to score in the second period, took 70 penalty minutes to Vernon’s 19.
Vernon’s top-three point-getters from the regular season exploded for 26 points with rookie Kaden Doughty pocketed five goals and 10 points, Jake Pelletier compiling four goals and nine points and Jordy Barr counting 2+7.
“We were completely undisciplined,” said Venom head coach Doug Clark. “It’s probably the ugliest loss I’ve had coaching junior here in Kamloops. They have a very good powerplay and they make you pay every time.”
Quinn Stanhope (3), Brett Olsen (2), Thomas Mackiewich, Mason Salway, Caden Colmorgen and Kyle Cuzzetto completed the Tigers’ offence in front of Kyle McIntosh (37 saves). Salway netted his first goal as a Tiger while killing a late penalty. Olsen and Conor Webb each supplied three helpers.
Kordell Primus (2), Anthony Matusiak (2), Trey Dergousoff, Colton Boomer and Tanner Koroluk had goals from the Venom. Troy Cuzzetto started between Kamloops’ pipes and was pulled after the Tigers’ 11th goal, a powerplay marker near the midway point of the second period.
Ethan Milobar took over in net, but got the hook and was replaced by Cuzzetto with 14:22 left in the third period, when Vernon scored its 16th goal. Milobar re-entered the game with 8:55 to play in the third frame after the Tigers’ 19th goal.
“None of us likes coming into a packed barn like that and losing that badly,” said Venom captain Brady Georget. “‘That’s for sure. We definitely showed a lack of discipline. All the boys are focused on the next game.”
The Venom list Eric Bunce with a double-minor, misconduct and game ejection late in the second period.
The Tigers have lost three straight league finals to the Venom, perhaps none more gut-wrenching than last year’s defeat, with the final blow coming in overtime in Game 5 at Memorial Arena. Pelletier remembers well how terrible that felt and would love nothing more than to sweep the Venom and score the coup de grace in Vernon on Thursday. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Kal Tire Place.
“It seemed like they kind of lost their composure out there and took a lot of penalties,” said Pelletier. “As long as we stay out of the box, we should be fine. It was a tough loss last year, but it made us hungrier this year.”
Clark and the Venom had a lengthy meeting in the dressing room after the game. The message centred on discipline and moving on from the lopsided defeat. The 2018 TOJLL banner will hang in Vernon if the message didn’t resonate.
“There’s a bunch of competitors in that room,” said Clark. “You’ll see a different team come Thursday. “It ain’t over. It takes three to win and we’ve been here before.”
Game 4, if required, goes Sunday in Kamloops. The winner will meet the West Coast League champion in a single-game provincial final (date and venue TBA).