This is the Lakers' moment
As the Western Lacrosse Association heads into the final third of the season all eyes are sharpening their focus on the final standings.
With what appears to be shaping up as a battle to the wire for almost certainly three WLA clubs, a wrong step in the final month of July could have serious consequences on a first-place finish for any of the possible contenders.
Burnaby is currently locked in a weekly exchange for the top spot in the seven-team loop with last year's regular season champion Victoria Shamrocks and the 2016 Mann Cup finalist Maple Ridge Burrards.
The next two weeks could go a long way in sorting out who those final players will be and in just what position they might wind up.
One could argue the top three all have control over their individual destinies.
That is certainly true of the senior A Lakers, who enter this week with back-to-back contests against the fourth-place and outside hope New Westminster Salmonbellies and Maple Ridge.
Burnaby must sweep its season series with the Salmonbellies, when the two clubs meet for the final time in the regular season on Thursday at Queen's Park Arena.
A loss by Burnaby would give the 'Bellies, a team desperate to get back into top-three contention, a playoff life the Lakers can ill afford to help foster.
There is no explainable motive for any other outcome than all hands on deck and full throttle forward for the Laker crew.
This is the Lakers' moment and a third win over New West would set themselves up well for the tough three games that lay ahead in the following weeks.
This Friday, the first of those difficult contests is against the Burrards at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre.
Burnaby split its first two games against the Burrards in the beginning of June, winning the league opener 9-5 before dropping the rematch 12-10 a week later.
But for all intents and purposes this week's games is a one-off match up as both teams will dress different and significantly stronger lineups from those fielded in the early days of the season.
The best-case scenario for the week would be Burnaby winning both games and, at worst, sharing first place with Victoria.
The worst case could possibly see the Lakers slip to 8-5-1 and a fourth-place tie with a resurgent Salmonbellies.
More importantly, the season series is on the line for both Burnaby and Maple Ridge and final placement in league standings might well come down to these head-to-head meetings.
It is difficult to predict where an advantage for either team might lie.
Maple Ridge has a slightly better power play percentage but the two squads are more or less equal in other special team categories. So, too, are the two team's home and away records.
Both teams are known for their stout defences and are as equal in goal as you will find in the league with Frankie Scigliano for Maple Ridge and either current save percentage leader Eric Penney or Zak Boychuk able to match up for the Lakers.
The two clubs also possess a lot of firepower up front to influence the outcome of the contest.
Pitt Meadows native Mike Mallory currently sits in second spot in league scoring with 21 goals and 46 points.
Laker lefty Eli McLaughlin is close behind in a tie for fourth place with 18 goals and 43 total points.
What just might separate the pair in a tight-checking match up could be the finish of those chosen goal scorers.
In that category, Burnaby appears to hold the upper hand with three of its four top-20 point getters (McLaughlin, Robert Church and Dane Stevens) all finding the back of the net at a healthy 20-plus scoring percentage.
Speculation has its fun side but nothing can beat being there in person to watch the moment unfold before your eyes.
You'll want to be at the Copeland centre Friday, July 14 to see how it all unfolds. Game time is 7:45 p.m.
Photos by Garrett James