Anthony Matusiak of the Kamloops Venom is chased by Kyle Cuzzetto of the Vernon Tigers in a meeting between the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League clubs at Memorial Arena in June. (ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW) Anthony Matusiak of the Kamloops Venom is chased by Kyle Cuzzetto of the Vernon Tigers in a meeting between the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League clubs at Memorial Arena in June. (ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)

Tigers open finals Sunday vs Venom

Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League playoffs

The Vernon Source For Sports Tigers and Kamloops Venom don’t communicate via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but they know one another like first cousins.

The Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League heavyweights will meet in the best-of-five playoff final series for the seventh-straight year. The Venom have prevailed in the past three finals and have won four of the last six.

Vernon dispatched the South Okanagan Flames 12-4 at Kal Tire Place, while Kamloops ambushed the visiting Armstrong Shamrocks 17-4 Monday night to sweep their respective best-of-three semifinal series.

Game 1 in the championship series goes Sunday night (7:30) in Vernon with the Venom hosting the second game Tuesday and Game 3 Thursday night at Kal Tire Place.

“We match up good,” said Vernon head coach Ryan Minchenko. “They’re like us in that they get scoring by committee. They have a bunch of guys who can put the ball in the net. They have a little more experience than us.”

Vernon and Kamloops have met in the final every year since 2012, with the Venom winning the championship in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017 and the Tigers claiming the title in 2013 and 2014.

The Tigers enter the 2018 showdown fixated on vengeance, boasting a roster that is capable of knocking off Kamloops.

“More than anything, it’s the continuity in their club,” Venom coach Doug Clark said of the Tigers. “They lost maybe two guys (to graduation after the 2017 campaign). We lost nine. “And they have a young goaltender, a kid from Castlegar, (Kyle) McIntosh, who’s had an outstanding season.”

No. 1-seed Vernon (9-1-2-0), which edged Kamloops by one point to finish atop regular-season standings, met the No. 4 Flames (1-8-2-1) of Penticton in the semifinals.

“We’re glad they got Penticton,” said Clark. “They’re better than their record showed.”

No. 2-seed Kamloops (9-2-1-0) cruised past the No. 3 Shamrocks (2-9-1-0).

“Their roster was pretty depleted with injury,” said Clark. “It wasn’t a big challenge.”

Officials and team representatives agreed on 20 minutes of running time for the second period and 10 minutes of running time for the third frame on Monday.

Vernon won the season series versus Kamloops. The Cats earned a 13-7 win at Memorial Arena on April 21; the teams tied 9-9 at Kal Tire Place on May 26; the Tigers hammered the Venom 14-1 in Vernon on June 9, and the Venom edged the Tigers 10-8 at Memorial on June 23.

“The biggest key is we have to stay out of the penalty box,” added Minchenko. “They move the ball up the floor pretty quick and get chances off that.”

The series winner is scheduled to face the West Coast Junior B champion in a one-game series Aug. 11 at a venue to be announced.

Rookie sensation Kaden Doughty dialled 3+3 for the Tigers Monday night, while league scoring champion Jordy Barr pocketed a hat trick and Brett Olsen compiled a deuce. Thomas Landels supplied 1+5, while Quinn Stanhope earned 1+2 and Chase Wirth and Zach Gares provided singles.

Aiden Canada counted 2+1 for the Flames, while Logan Cote and Carson Shortreed fired singles. The Flames lost top scoring Jake Mcleod with a misconduct in the second period, Matt Carson for a butt-ending major in the third and head coach Kevin Thompson for verbal abuse of an official, with 5:36 remaining. The Tigers took a pair of minor penalties.

“We put rookie Tyler Langtree in the lineup and he and rookie Zach Gares both had strong games,” said Minchenko. “Every time they were out there, they were effective.”

Jake Pelletier pocketed 5+2 as the Tigers torched the Flames 14-7 Saturday night.

Pelletier, who was third in the league points derby with 23 goals and 45 points, was marvellous on both sides of the ball.

“Jake is an athlete,” said Minchenko. “He’s a plug-in-and-play type player. He’s a force on the floor. There are not too many guys who are going to beat him to a loose ball.”

Stanhope and Doughty each pulled hat tricks for the Tigers, who got 2+1 from Kyle Cuzzetto. Liam McLaren and Shortreed each scored twice for the Flames.

“We’re moving the ball well and we’re more importantly moving the legs well,” said Minchenko. “We’re riding the hot hand of (goalie McIntosh) Kyle in net right now.”

Captain Tylor Seabrooke and Nolan Virgo each registered three goals for the Venom Monday night. Trey Dergousoff, Zach Hebden and Kordell Primus filed two goals apiece and Brady Georget, Kolby Pauwels, Ryan Wightman, Adam Gardner and Spencer Vaughan each had singles. Ethan Milobar earned the victory.

Primus posted 18 goals and 28 points in just six games. Seabrook topped the Venom with 34 points, while Colton Boomer had 33.

Boomer bagged four goals as Kamloops grounded the host Shamrocks 9-5 Saturday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.

Virgo earned 2+1, while Seabrooke supplied 1+3. Austin Dunais rang up a deuce for the Shamrocks, while Drew Bannister had 1+2 and other snipes came from Mykl Drabiuk and Dakota Campen.

There were four fighting majors as Drabiuk took on Nate Fraser in the second period, while Colton Greeno of the Shamrocks battled Jordan Bonce in the third period.

The 2017 TOJLL final was one of the best in league history, a five-game slobberknocker that needed overtime in Game 5 in Kamloops to decide a winner. Venom runner Kolby Pauwels notched the deciding goal in the extra frame on a balmy Tuesday night in the Snake Pit, putting an exclamation mark on a see-saw series in which the home team won every game. Three of the contests — Games 3, 4 and 5 — were one-goal games.

Fraser is not expected to be available for the final due to a broken hand. The Tigers expected Conor Webb (ear surgery) and Caden Colmorgen (knee) to be ready for the finals.

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