Venom wins on floor, in boardroom

The Kamloops Venom had a bus ready to go to Vernon, but, in the end, it wasn't needed.

Instead, the Venom practised.

"It has been a long four days having to wait while this whole lacrosse mess gets straightened out," Venom assistant coach Rob Smith wrote in an email.

And to call what occurred early in the week a "mess" likely is an understatement.

In the end, however, the B.C. Lacrosse Association upheld the Venom's appeal - the Vernon Tigers had accused the Venom of using an illegal player in a playoff game - meaning the Kamloops team is, indeed, the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League champion for the first time in its history.

As such, the Venom now will head for Langley where it opens the provincial championship Friday, 8 p.m., against the Port Moody Saints.

But let's go back before we look ahead . . .

The Venom dumped the visiting Tigers 5-4 in overtime a week ago tonight, thus winning the TOJLL's best-of-five final, 3-1.

Following the game, the traditional handshake took place and Venom head coach Doug Clark said Wednesday night that there was no indication whatsoever as to what was to come.

"It was congratulations and away we went," Clark said. "And then they pulled this one out."

As Smith wrote: "I guess when we beat the Vernon Tigers fair and legal on the floor and the coaches shook our hands congratulating us and wishing us good luck at provincials it was all a charade."

Following the game, the Tigers filed a protest with the B.C. Lacrosse Association, claiming that the Vipers had dressed an ineligible player.

The Vipers, with backup goaltender Mitch Horsman at the B.C. Summer Games and two potential midget replacements unavailable, had Mark Larsen of the Kamloops Rattlers on the bench in support of starter Andrew Copeland.

The understanding with the TOJLL, as president Ed Kwasniewski put it in an email to the Venom, was that Larsen "is for emergency use only. . . . you can only use your call-up if there is an injury."

As Clark said, "We were completely above board with the league, with Vernon, about the whole thing. It's not like we tried to deceive anybody. We had permission."

Vernon, however, chose to bypass the TOJLL and took its protest right to the BCLA. Originally, the BCLA ruled in favour of Vernon, ordered Game 4 forfeited to the Tigers and said that a fifth and deciding game would have to be played.

The Venom promptly filed an appeal but, in the meantime, booked a bus and was prepared to play in Vernon if the order came down.

It didn't come to that, however, as the BCLA ruled Wednesday in favour of the Venom's appeal.

"They tried everything they could, I guess," Clark said of Vernon's attempt to force a Game 5 by taking things off the floor and into the boardroom. "It makes you sick to your stomach."

The fact that Vernon chose to bypass the league and protest directly to the BCLA isn't sitting well with other teams, according to the Venom.

As Clark said, the "next league meeting would be a good one to be at. I would probably think that the whole league was against what Vernon has done."

Clark was sounding most upbeat as he headed to practice. Asked what he would tell his players, he replied:

"If there's anything that can give you a boost, it's probably what happened (Wednesday). Let's just go down and have some fun and see what happens, like they have all year."

The Venom will compete for the title with Port Moody, the New Westminster Salmonbellies and the West Shore Bears, teams about which Clark doesn't know a whole lot.

The Venom hasn't seen any of those teams, although Clark allowed that he does "know a little bit about them from friends on the Island and Coast, but not a whole pile."

The Venom won't have runners Mike Henry and Ben Saklofsky due to injuries.

"They are two great rookies," Clark said. "They got hurt in the playoffs and they're just not ready to go. They're young and they have good careers ahead of them and we're just not going to put them at risk."

The Venom is to play two games Saturday, at 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. The third-place game is scheduled for Sunday, 10 a.m., with the championship game at 1 p.m.

All games are to be played at the George Preston Arena in Langley.

gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca

gdrinnan.blogspot.com

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