To put it bluntly, the route out of a deep hole is no place for doubters.
Leave the second-guessing for bystanders, and the hindsight for later.
The New Westminster Salmonbellies face a San Juan Hill-sized obstacle in the form of a 3-0 deficit in their best-of-seven Western Lacrosse Association semifinal with the Maple Ridge Burrards.
On the heels of Monday's 12-10 overtime setback at Queen's Park, where a couple of clutch rallies gave way to an extra-time surge by the visitors, the regular season champions sit on the precipice of elimination.
The Burrards' Ben McIntosh and Jean Luc Chetner counted the first goals of overtime, with New West's Jason Jones spurring a late comeback attempt with the goalie on the bench. It gave a glimmer of hope with 1:15 remaining, but Maple Ridge, who has succeeded to date with a smothering defence and explosive offence, squelching the rally talk with Curtis Dickson's empty net goal with 23 seconds left on the clock.
The whole season now hinges on what happens Wednesday (Aug. 8, 7:30 p.m. at Maple Ridge's Cam Neely Arena) in Game 4. If New West is able to turn the tide, a fifth game would go Saturday at Queen's Park (7:30 p.m.).
On Monday, a staid, low-scoring first period was shattered when Maple Ridge broke a 1-1 draw with three quick goals to start the second frame. McIntosh, with a pair, and Mike Mallory used just 1:54 off the clock to create a 4-1 advantage for the visitors. New West's Logan Schuss and Brandon Goodwin made it a one-goal game with a quick pair, but Dickson replied with two of his own within 56 seconds to provide the Burrards with a 6-3 lead halfway through the game.
Credit the 'Bellies for sticking to their gameplan, getting tallies from Mitch Jones, Anthony Malcom and Schuss to draw even before the end of the period.
In the third, it was another shooting gallery as New West, grabbed its first lead since the opening goal, 7-6, on Goodwin's second of the night, before the visitors countered. Another 'Bellies goal -- this time by Anthony Malcom -- drew another Maple Ridge response. With 6:25 remaining in the third, Dan Taylor deposited a goal that propped Maple Ridge ahead 9-8, setting the scene for Jason Jones' tying goal.
After 60 minutes, Maple Ridge outshot New West 46-42. In overtime, McIntosh struck just 42 seconds into the 10-minute session and Chetner added to the lead almost at the midpoint. It be fairly dramatic down the stretch, with the Burrards' netminder Frank Scigliano standing his ground.
Malcom finished with three goals on the night, while Jason Jones, Goodwin and Schuss notched two goals apiece.
Dickson and McIntosh led Maple Ridge with four goals and two assists each.
In the 12-5 loss last Saturday, the home team opened with a four-goal run and blanked New West in the first 20 minutes. Six minutes into the second frame it was 6-1 and a tough slog.
"We got behind the eight-ball penalty-wise, early," noted New West head coach Rory McDade, referring to three straight Burrards powerplay tallies in the opening stanza. "Not being able to stop their powerplay was a big issue. If you look at the powerplay and penalty kill stats theywere heavily in their favour, and when ever that's the case you're in tough."
Maple Ridge finished the night converting on four of their five extra-man opportunities.
"We're hoping our adjustments are going to come into play. We've been great at home all year and when ever we've had adversity this year we've bounced back," McDade said after Game 2.
"It's seven games. We're hoping our guys can take into considreration where we're making adjustments. Some little adjustments but we have to keep battling."
A major challenge has been trying to shut down the tandem of Dickson and McIntosh, who have combined for 32 points -- Dickson leading all playoff shooters with 11 goals and eight assists -- over three games. But Maple Ridge's attack has been diversified enough -- Dan Taylor scored a game-high three goals and five assists in Game 2 -- to offset the defensive focus put on the two national team members.
At the other end, former New West junior back stop Frank Scigliano has posted a league-best .850 save percentage.
New West, who swept the regular season series between the two squads, has little room for error now.
"Both (Dickson and McIntosh) are world class players and whenever they have the ball on their sticks they're dangerous. We have guys that can be that dangerous as well. Over the course of the series guys are going to have big games. They answered the bell early but now it's our turn. ... We haven't had that three, four goal run in this series yet and that's pretty key in lacrosse. That's something we're striving for and have to keep battling for," said McDade.