It only gets tougher from here
The New Westminster Salmonbellies are at a dangerous stage of the Mann Cup.
One might think, 'What? the home team just pulled off an impressive 13-8 victory over the Peterborough Lakers on Saturday and is just two games away from a 25th overall title and hoisting the cup for the first time since 1991.'
But with that 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven national senior A lacrosse championships, New West is entering the first off day in the week-long series with the capacity to dream - what if ...?
The Salmonbellies would do well to dismiss all such flights of fancy, the road ahead to a Canadian title is fraught with pitfalls and unexpected turns, and most of all an eastern foe that historically very often finds ways to win even when the odds seemed stacked against them.
Since 2004, Peterborough has reveled in series lasting six games, winning in that year against Victoria and then again in 2007 over Coquitlam by that same scoreline.
The last time these two teams met in Peterborough in the 2010 Mann, the series was also over in six games with the Lakers coming out on top.
Indeed, in the 2012 Mann Cup final, Peterborough was in a similar predicament to what it finds itself now at Queen's Park having lost the first two games to the Langley Thunder. But as everyone knows, the Lakers came back in that series to wrestle a first-ever title away from the Langley club with four straight wins.
There are a few points to consider here.
First off, Peterborough upped its overall shots on goal considerably from Game 1, challenging Alexis Buque to turn in a player-of-the-game performance in goal and forcing the Salmonbellies keeper to make 16 more stops than in Game 1 to record his second consecutive victory in the series.
In response, the entire Salmonbellies back end did a solid job, holding both Game 1 star Curtis Dickson and eastern playoff scoring champion Shawn Evans to zero goals between them.
One very positive observation of the 'Bellies is the contributions coming on offence.
For the second straight game, New West has garnered multi-goal games from five different players and its not the same scorers from game to game.
On Friday, it was Kevin Crowley, with a hat trick, and doubles coming from player-of-the-game Logan Schuss, Brandon Goodwin, junior A call up Connor Robinson and overtime hero Joel McCready.
Last night, Robinson scored his first career Mann Cup hat trick, while Schuss, Crowley, Goodwin and Mitch Jones, with his first goals of the series, added two markers apiece.
In comparison, Peterborough has had just five multi-goal scorers combined in the first two games of the series.
Another telling statistic for New West is in the seven periods played to date, including Friday's 10-minute overtime session, the Salmonbellies have outscored Peterborough in four of those frames, with the second and third stanzas on Saturday both being equal 4-4 and 3-3, respectively.
What still raises some concern for 'Bellies backers comes on special teams, where the Lakers clearly have an edge, although those numbers softened somewhat after Game 2.
Peterborough's power play is clicking on two-thirds of its extra-man opportunities, while its penalty kill is more than 55 per cent effective when shorthanded.
New West also improved its numbers on special teams with the 13-8 win on Saturday, holding the Lakers to a single power play goal, while tallying a pair when it enjoyed a man up.
Brandon Goodwin's play has been a singular delight.
The all-purpose left-hander, who was born in the same year New Westminster last won the Mann Cup , has tallied four goals so far, adding goal depth to the attack since being converted to a more defensive transition role.
Game 3 is Monday, Sept. 11 at the Queen's Park Arena - a night that Peterborough can ill afford to have another slow, first-period start. In the first two games of the series, New West has outscored the Lakers a combined 10-2 in the opening frame.
Game time is 7:30 p.m.