Teams rebounding from a three-games-to-none deficit to win a playoff series are a rarity in sports.
Still, as evidenced by the 1975 New York Islanders, 1996 Spokane Chiefs, and 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, it’s not impossible.
It’s also one of the threads of hope the Kelowna Rockets are hanging on to in their WHL opening round playoff series with Portland.
Despite their predicament—trailing the high-powered Winterhawks 3-0—Rockets’ head coach Ryan Huska said waving the white flag is not an option heading into Game 4 Thursday at Prospera Place.
“We’re in a tough, tough hole but tomorrow’s a new day and we’re still alive,” said Huska.
“That’s what’s important to remember. There have been lots of teams in history in whatever sport that have found a way back from a three-nothing deficit. You just have to continue to believe you can beat the team. It starts with one game, we don’t want to look at the big picture, we have to worry about one game and that’s all we have to focus on.”
Kelowna has so far been unable to contain the Winterhawks’ dynamic duo of Sven Bartschi and Ty Rattie through the first three games of the series.
Bartschi, one of the Calgary Flames’ top prospects, has two goals and seven assists, while Rattie has struck for goals and three assists.
Each had two goals and two helpers in a 6-3 ‘Hawks win Tuesday night at Prospera Place.
Huska thought Game 3 was this club’s best effort of the playoffs, but it wasn’t enough against two of the league’s most dangerous and opportunistic forwards.
“We have to find a way to play smarter,” said Huska. “I thought the work-hard was there, but we have to work smarter at times, too, so we know exactly when that line’s on the ice. The decisions you make with the puck have to be very good, because if you do make a mistake, those players are going to make you pay.”
If the Rockets are unable to prolong the series with a win on Thursday night, it will mark the end of the major junior careers of at least four players—over-agers Adam Brown, Cody Chikie and Brett Lyon, and Brett Bulmer, who is likely headed to the pro ranks in 2012-13.
Bulmer, the Rockets’ leading goal scorer during the regular season, sat out Tuesday’s game on suspension.
The 19-year-old forward was disciplined for a kneeing major in Game 2 of the series in Portland.
On Wednesday, the WHL announced it was just a one game suspension and Bulmer is expected back in the Rockets lineup for game four on Thursday night.
Game 5, if necessary, will be played Saturday night in Portland.