The task that lies before the two-time reigning Western Lacrosse Association champion Langley Thunder is simple.
If the Thunder manages to beat the Victoria Shamrocks in Victoria Thursday and again Sunday at the Langley Events Centre, the WLA title will return to Langley for the third time in as many years.
But if Victoria downs Langley at Bear Mountain Arena, the 'Rocks will unseat the Thunder as kings of B.C. senior A box lacrosse.
The Thunder looked in pretty good shape going into the weekend, up 2-1 in games in the bestof-seven WLA championship series.
Now the Shamrocks hold the hammer after beating the Thunder 4-3 in overtime Friday at Bear Mountain Arena and 11-8 Sunday at the LEC.
The series winner hosts the 2013 Mann Cup national championship against the Ontario titleholder.
If the Shamrocks win the series, they will make their first Mann Cup appearance in seven years.
In 2006, the Peterborough Lakers defeated the 'Rocks in five games to take the national title.
The Shamrocks' most recent Mann Cup victory came the year before, in 2005, when they downed the Lakers in six games.
The Thunder has lost the last two Mann Cups series, to the Brampton Excelsiors in 2011 and Lakers last September.
"We're still alive," Thunder head coach Rod Jensen said. "It's sudden death now and our backs are against the wall. We've got veterans who have played in these types of games so we will be able to handle it. But we have to match their [the Shamrocks'] energy and enthusiasm. We have to find a way to get ourselves back in there."
Jensen said the 'Rocks are at the top of their game and it's up to the Thunder to match their level of play.
"We have moments, spurts, but we're not consistent enough," he said. "Victoria is playing a smart series."
The Shamrocks are bringing more speed than the Thunder is used to, Jensen said.
"That's causing us trouble," he said. "Their offence is really quick. Plus we're not able to get into positions to get quality shots on their goalie."
On a positive note for the local squad, the pressure is on the Shamrocks to close out the series on their home floor.
"Our team really enjoys playing in Victoria," Jensen said. "They get a full building and it's exciting, but we have to answer the bell. We've let our guard down the last couple of games and they've taken advantage of it."
The head coach added, "Credit to Victoria: they've played consistent and disciplined. It's do-or-die and we have to step it up."
Shamrocks 11, Thunder 8 Mitch Jones notched a hat trick while Cory Conway scored twice and added three assists Sunday at the LEC as the Shamrocks inched one win away from taking the WLA title.
The Thunder led 6-5 on a Brett Mydske goal at the 8:15 mark of the second period before the Shamrocks responded with three unanswered goals to carry an 8-6 lead into the final frame.
Then, after Athan Iannucci scored to narrow the Thunder's deficit to 9-8 with 4:34 to go in regulation, the Shamrocks pulled away by scoring the final two goals of the contest.
The Shamrocks deserved full marks for the victory, outshooting the Thunder 60-43.
For the Thunder, Dane Dobbie tallied twice in a losing effort.
Mydske, Iannucci, Garrett Billings (who added five assists), Steven Neufeld, Adam Jones, and Mark Matthews scored the other Langley goals.
Shamrocks 4, Thunder 3 (overtime) Scott Ranger's goal 2:09 into the first overtime period proved to be the winner as the 'Rocks edged the Thunder in a lowscoring affair Friday in Victoria. Mydske with two and Alex Turner scored for the Thunder, which led 2-1 after the first period and 3-2 after 40 minutes of play.
Rhys Duch's powerplay goal tied the game for the Shamrocks 5:55 into the third frame.
Thunder goaltender Brodie MacDonald stopped 57 of 61 shots in a losing cause.
Thunder 12, Shamrocks 10 The Thunder took a 2-1 series lead last Wednesday with a gritty home floor victory at the LEC.
By the end of the first period, the Thunder led the 'Rocks 5-2. Nick Rose made 16 saves for the Thunder during the opening 20 minutes of action. The Thunder came out flying in the second period and added two more goals to its totals, to extend its lead to 7-3. The Shamrocks stormed back to come within a goal, and then tied the score at 10-10 on Dan MacRae's shorthanded marker at the 18:27 mark of the third period.
But 31 seconds later, Matthews scored on a powerplay to give the Thunder an 11-10 advantage.
The goal, Matthews fourth of the night, turned out to be the winner.
That's because with nine seconds to go in regulation, Billings potted a powerplay goal into an empty net to complete a hard-fought victory for the home team.
FINAL BUZZER: The championship series pits the top two teams from the WLA's regular season against each other.
With an 11-5-2 record, the Thunder topped the WLA standings for the second consecutive year.
The Shamrocks finished in second spot with an 11-7 mark.
Both teams were coming off four-game sweeps of their respective semifinal opponents, with the Thunder dispatching the Coquitlam Adanacs and the Shamrocks eliminating the Burnaby Lakers.
@ Copyright 2013