With just three games left on the table, the Burnaby Lakers can see the playoffs from here.
But as one of five teams holding a share of first place in the inconceivably knotted Western Lacrosse Association’s standings, those three contests represent a playoff situation in their own right.
Four teams – Burnaby, Nanaimo, Maple Ridge and New West – hold 9-5 records, while Victoria is 9-6 with a game in hand.
It’s going to come down to a final two weeks game of musical chairs, with the Lakers’ first critical match-up on Thursday when they visit nemesis New West.
“Everyone knows what’s on the line for these last games,” remarked Burnaby captain Dane Stevens. “We’ve got to come out prepared because a win would be a huge step forward, but (New West) also sees that.
“I expect them to come out as prepared as we’re going to be, so in its own way these are our playoffs (now).”
The Lakers stayed with the pack by knocking off the Langley Thunder 11-8 last Friday, thanks to seven-point performances from Robert Church and Stevens. The two registered hat tricks in a game that was deadlocked early in the third, with Burnaby breaking loose when Vinny Ricci and Church combined for three goals in just 1:32 midway through the final period.
Ricci finished with a pair, while Brandon Clelland, Jared Pozzobon and Tristan Rai chipped in singles.
The Lakers outshot Langley 60-43, with Steve Fryer keeping the 4-11-0 Thunder in the game.
Eric Penney turned aside 35 shots.
It was an important bounce-back effort on the heels of back-to-back losses to Victoria (13-6) and Nanaimo (9-7) earlier in the week.
“It was a big win, obviously,” noted Stevens. “We needed the two points and had to get back on the winning side of the ball. We came out more focused to start and dialed it down to what we needed to do.
“I think a key for us is getting focused for the game and coming out with a strong start. For most of the games we’ve lost we trailed early and didn’t get out of the gate fast enough. That’s something we, and I, need to do.”
The Lakers’ final three opponents are all among those vying for the four playoff spots, including Sunday’s match in Victoria. Although Burnaby holds the tiebreaker – a 2-1 record in head-to-head play – against Maple Ridge, the Timbermen of Nanaimo have the deciding factor in case those two teams are tied at the end of the season.
Stevens said although there is hope that some of the injured players, whose ranks include starters Eli McLaughlin, Scott Jones, Sam Clare and Daryl Veltman, may be able to get back in the lineup in the next week, it’s going to come down to who comes to play mentally and physically.
“Any help we can get is huge, but for those of us there on game day, it’s up to us to get the job done.
“For us, the playoffs have already started.”