First back-to-back a test for Lakers

Week 4 of the Western Lacrosse Association season will be a test on a number of levels for the Burnaby Lakers.

First and foremost, the Lakers two-game win streak is on the line against the current league-leading and unbeaten New Westminster Salmonbellies.

After three losses on the road and only one win prior to last Friday's come-from-behind 6-5 victory over Nanaimo, Burnaby will be hard pressed to find the badly needed markers to upset the 5-0 Salmonbellie juggernaut.

The 'Bellies are currently averaging 12 goals per outing, having tallied a total of 30 counters in two victories last week, including a whopping 19 goals against the Thunder in Langley. As well, four starting Salmonbellies are currently in the top 10 in WLA scoring, each of them with nine goals or better.

While Burnaby's defence allowed just 13 goals in their last two contests, the runners up front have managed to put only a half dozen into the opposition's net in the team's last two starts.

There is little to choose between the two clubs when it comes to special teams. Tonight's match up with the Fishmen will almost certainly be decided on the quality of five-on-five play between the crosstown rival clubs.

This doesn't bode well for the Bill Copeland centre crew, who have just 41 goals and sport a modest .184 team shooting percentage in their first five games.

However,  this will likely change with the long awaited return of superstar Robert Church. The Coquitlam righthander is coming off a career-high 100-plus point season in the NLL and a third Champion's Cup title in four seasons with the Saskatchewan Rush franchise.

Eli McLaughlin's recent four-goal splurge in last week's win over Nanaimo also gives the home supporters cause for optimism.

But consistency up and down the Laker roster is what is needed more than anything and particularly in this week's two-games-in-two-nights scenario.

The second question is how well will the Lakers fare in their first back-to-back outing this season.

There is an open window opportunity for the Lakers, who, if they are on their game, just might catch the Salmonbellies coming off their own two in two nights.

New West will surely want to have all hands on deck for its home date with third-place Victoria on Thursday. 

If it's mission accomplished for the Salmonbellies at Queen's Park, might there be a possibly that they could come into the Copeland centre the next night believing Friday's contest will be a waltz in the park? 

That could well play into the hands of a club like Burnaby that should be feeling a sense of urgency at this stage of the season.

Next up for Burnaby after tonight's tilt with New West are the Coquitlam Adanacs, who managed their only victory of the year to date on similar two games in two nights scheduling following Burnaby's 11-8 win over the A's in the beginning of June.

That said, the same Coquitlam club, just last week, lost both ends of a weekend back-to-back. But the card in the A's favour would be home floor advantage, unless the Lakers are able to dispel their road game woes.

However, as we reach the first third of the season, the one certainty in the league, if there is one, is that the leading teams will likely only get stronger, while the rest are in a dogfight for that fourth and final playoff spot.

That is why this weekend has so much importance for the Burnaby Lakers.

Drop both games this week and the Lakers record falls to 2-5 with winning clubs, Victoria and Maple Ridge, waiting in the wings to feast on a weakened opponent. Win and Burnaby looks like an altogether different team with expectations of an entirely more positive nature going forward.

Next week's home game has the Victoria Shamrocks coming to town for a second season series meeting with the Burnaby Lakers. Game time at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre is an early 7 p.m. start.

Photos courtesy of Garrett James