How will the regular season end?
With just a week to go before the end of the Western Lacrosse Association season playoff watchers just can't help but try and predict the outcomes.
The post-season combatants have all been decided but just who will current league leader Maple Ridge end up playing in the first round of playoffs when the season comes to an end on Aug. 1?
The most likely opponent appears to be the Burnaby Lakers, a team that surrendered their season series advantage to the Burrards earlier this month in a disastrous seven-goal, third-period collapse.
That's not to say, Maple Ridge is a lock to sew up its first regular-season title in the 22 years since the storied Burrards franchise relocated from Surrey.
All indications are that the scramble for top spot and home floor advantage in the playoffs will be as intense as it's ever been in recent senior A history.
The New Westminster Salmonbellies, coming off a 4-0 hot streak, could finish as high as runner-up in the WLA with a season-series win over the visiting Victoria Shamrocks on Thursday.
The Shamrocks are just 4-4 on the road this season, including a 7-4 loss in Burnaby last week, while New West has won its last three straight games at Queen's Park.
Prediction: New West finishes with an 11-6-1 record and 23 points with season-series advantages over Maple Ridge, Victoria and Burnaby.
Maple Ridge, who lost all three of its regular season encounters to the Salmonbellies, should make it past the Adanacs in Coquitlam this weekend on the strength of their league-best 6-2 record on the road.
Prediction: Maple Ridge hangs on to finish in first place with a 12-6-0 record and 24 points.
Victoria is 6-1-1 at home and would be the likely odds-on favourite to take the season series decider against the 4-4 road Lakers this Friday.
Prediction: Victoria finishes with a 11-6-1 record and 23 points but behind the 'Bellies on the head-to-head tiebreaker.
That leaves Burnaby in fourth place overall with an identical 11-6-1 record, provided the Lakers finish out the season on a winning footing, and after all the tie breaks are taken into account.
With that outcome, Maple Ridge and Burnaby would face each other for just the second time ever in the opening round of the playoffs. The last time was in 2014, when the third-place Burrards bettered runner-up Burnaby 4-2 in a mild first-round upset.
The other most likely possible finish would have Victoria winning its final two games and finishing in first place with 25 points, which would send the Salmonbellies tumbling to fourth overall at 21 points.
In that not unlikely scenario, Maple Ridge and Burnaby would take up second and third place, respectively, leaving them once again first-round playoff foes.
It is also possible if the Lakers field a strong line up that they could conceivably steal first place and wrap up their first-ever regular season title with a 3-0 run in their remaining three games.
In that less likely possibility, Burnaby would most likely meet either a fourth-place New Westminster or Victoria club in the opening round.
Photos courtesy of Garrett James