Let's take a glass-halffull approach to the Langley Thunder's defeat at the hands of the Peterborough Lakers in the Mann Cup.
The best-of-seven Canadian senior A lacrosse championship - won by the Lakers in six games - saw the Thunder blow leads and a dazzlingly talented Lakers team doggedly come back, time and again.
Sure, the Western Lacrosse Association champion Thunder won the first two contests before the Lakers stormed back to win the next four, including Saturday's series-clincher by a 14-8 score in front of 3,904 fans at the Peterborough Memorial Centre.
And yes, the Thunder, facing elimination, jumped out to an early 3-0 lead to open game six and led 5-2 at one point of the first period.
But, in the end, this Lakers team was not to be denied, no matter how hard the Thunder battled.
Peterborough scored all six goals during the second period to take a 9-5 lead into the final frame. Two additional markers in the opening five minutes of the third period gave the Lakers an 11-5 lead and all but sealed the win, and the Mann Cup, for the host team.
The teams traded three goals apiece the rest of the way to round out the series' scoring.
Langley native Garrett Billings, who led all Mann Cup players in assists (25) and points (32), one better than the Lakers' Shawn Evans in both categories, is still stinging from the loss.
"Obviously we're disappointed with our finish," Billings said.
"We thought we had a few chances to win but that's what happens when you are playing a team as deep as Peterborough."
Lewis Ratcliff scored a hat trick while captain Matt Leveque tallied twice in the Thunder's final game of 2012.
Lakers' star John Grant notched four goals and added two assists to lead his team to victory.
Shawn Evans had a goal and six assists while Cory Vitarelli and Scott Evans each potted a pair for Peterborough.
The Thunder outshot the Lakers 46-43. Langley used two goaltenders. Starter Brodie MacDonald stopped 21 of 31 shots, while backup Steve Fryer got in the way of eight of 12 Lakers' scoring attempts.
Thunder head coach Rod Jensen took some comfort in the fact his team had a better showing than it did at the 2011 Mann Cup, which the Thunder lost in five games to the Brampton Excelsiors at the Langley Events Centre.
"We had a way better performance than last year," Jensen said. "Last year we were deer in headlights; this year we were right there. Last year we didn't have enough; this year we competed in every game."
However, the Thunder players weren't congratulating each other for giving it the old college try after the series-clinching loss.
"It was pretty emotional in the changing room," Jensen related. "The guys were pretty disappointed, but everyone can walk away truly with their heads up."
Lakers 9, Thunder 5
On Friday, another rough second period cost the Thunder.
The Thunder led 4-0 after the first period, but in the middle frame, the local squad was outscored 7-0 to trail 7-4 after 40 minutes of play.
The Thunder's Athan Iannucci's goal was sandwiched between two Lakers markers in the third period to finish the night's scoring.
Iannucci led Langley in Mann Cup goals with 15.
Even with the Mann Cup loss, the 2012 season can be deemed a success for the Thunder.
Langley topped the WLA during the regular season with a 12-6 record, swept the Burnaby Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, and defeated the Coquitlam Adanacs in six games in the WLA final.
Billings said it's still tough to look back at the season as a triumphant one, because the Thunder wasn't able to win its last game: "It's hard for me to say that, after losing. Anything short of victory for us, we're not really happy at all."
Billings plans on returning to his hometown next spring to help the Thunder make a third consecutive run to the Mann Cup.
"Hopefully Langley can maintain this run of the table in the west," he said.
Here's an example of just how strong Ontario lacrosse is: with a 9-5 record, the Lakers finished third in Major Series Lacrosse regular season standings behind the second place Six Nations Chiefs (9-4-1) and first place Brooklin Redmen (10-4).
Once they were in the post-season, the Lakers really found their legs rolling to an 11-1 record to win the MSL playoff title.
During their championship run, the Lakers defeated Ajax, Brooklin, and Billings' former team, Six Nations in the MSL playoff championship series.
@ Copyright 2013