OLIVER — Cairo Rogers' goal with 32 seconds left in regulation time lifted South Okanagan Flames to a 5-4 win over Kamloops Venom and the
Thompson-Okanagan Junior Lacrosse championship, Thursday at the Oliver Arena.
South Okanagan won the best-of-five championship series 3-1 having also won games one and two. Each game in the series was decided by two goals or less.
Liam McLaren scored a hat-trick in the victory. Rogers and Austin Swanson had single goals. Rogers and Alex Nimmo added two assists each and Chase Moog drew an assist on the game winner.
Trey Dergesoff led the Venom's scoring with two goals, plus an assist.
South Okanagan led 3-1 at the end of the first period and both teams were tied 3-3 after two periods of play.
Connor Ramage was the winning goalie making 35 stops. South Okanagan outshot the visitors 47-39 overall.
It was the first championship in the 19-year history of the Flames and the first time the team reached the final.
"We're super proud," said Flames' manager April Thompson, whose husband Kevin Thompson is the head coach.
"A million things are going through my mind, but most of all we had amazing support from the fans all playoffs and from our alumni crew.
The support from the community has been amazing. The guys on the floor — they're great, they won it — but, this is also for those who came before them."
The Flames won only one of seven regular season meetings against the Venom, the final game. Kamloops won the regular season with a sparkling 11-3 record. South Okanagan was second (6-7-1) and Vernon third (13-10-1).
In the league semi-final, South Okanagan needed three games to defeat Vernon in a best-of-three series. Kamloops received a bye to the final.
It's hoped that next year Armstrong and Kelowna will both return to the league.
South Okanagan now waits until the weekend of Aug. 11-12 when they travel to the Q Centre in Victoria to play the runner-up of the province's other division in what will be the tier-II junior championship. (The winner of that league advances to the Founder's Cup Canadian championship.)