There are many silver linings in the somber end to the season for the South Okanagan Flames lacrosse team.
The Flames fell to the Kamloops Venom 13-7 in Game 5 of the first round of playoffs in the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League.
It was a short bench once again for the Flames, capping off an exhausting series for the 12-man bench, who tied the series 2-2 heading into Tuesday night’s do-or-die match in the best of five series.
Coach Kevin Thompson called the first period a “great defensive battle” with the score 1-1 heading into the second. Down by one heading into the third period, the gas ran out for the Flames.
“We were poised to come out and take it to them and everybody was pumped. Our boys hit a wall and couldn’t do it, couldn’t hold them off,” Thompson said.
Travelling to Kamloops, getting back at 1 a.m. and heading to Kelowna the next day for back-to-back matches put a strain on the team with an already short roster due to injuries and other commitments.
“Back-to-back nights with 12 guys, it can’t be done. I don’t care who you’ve got,” said Thompson. “We’ve got a great team and core group of athletes and unfortunately all that work we put in and the great year that we had came to a crashing halt.”
Thompson said the tone in the locker room after the loss was a somber one.
“They were all thoroughly disappointed at losing. They all wanted to win and they play with all their heart. The 12 guys who were there were the 12 guys at every practice putting in work that lead the way,” Thompson said.
It doesn’t show up on any stat sheet, but the Flames received some high praise from a long-time referee Lorne Craig in his last year.
“He talked to me privately about how impressed he was with our team and said it was always a pleasure refereeing for our team because of the class they showed, the sportsmanship, the lacrosse they were putting out were second to none,” Thompson said.
Craig also chatted with the team and told them to hold their heads up high after the game. Thompson said the commissioner of the league also passed on that the Flames were a class act, and if they had a few more runners on the bench things may have played out differently.
The Flames were a bit emotional about losing two of their stars after this year as well. MVP candidate Chris Pond, who had over 100 points this year and broke individual league records for points and assists, as well as shut-down net minder Dean Grimm, age out this year. Both will return next year to help out with training and coaching.
“They are brothers forever with this team,” Thompson said. “Neither one can be replaced, but we have incredible players coming up to take their own spot.”
The season caps the best year ever for the Flames at 10-6 finishing in second place. The Flames were also the least penalized team in the leagues as well as grabbing most goals in league play.