The bad news first: It’s only happened 12 times in the 68-year history of the American Hockey League.
Now the good news: It’s happened twice in the last three weeks.
“It” is a successful comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to win a best-of-seven Calder Cup Playoff series. Wednesday night, two more teams begin the uphill climb to add their names to the list.
Philadelphia hosts Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the Wachovia Center, while Chicago pays a visit to Milwaukee. Both teams need three consecutive wins to advance to their respective conference final.
Already this postseason, Wilkes-Barre and Rochester have erased 3-1 deficits, both in the division semifinal round. Both capped their comebacks with Game 7 overtime wins on the road, the Penguins in Bridgeport on Apr. 25, and the Americans in Syracuse on May 1.
Two comebacks in seven days, after the feat had been pulled off twice in the previous 11 years.
Accomplishing the feat has certainly proven to be a giant boost to a team’s championship hopes. Before this year, of the 10 teams to post 3-1 comebacks, seven won the Calder Cup in the same season, most recently the 2000 Hartford Wolf Pack and the 1997 Hershey Bears.
Of course, such a valiant team effort can also take a lot of the wind out of your sails. Three teams, Rochester in 1960 and 1992 and Virginia in 1973, lost the series immediately following their comebacks.
Getting the puck past Andy Chiodo should be the Phantoms’ first priority in their quest to make history. The Penguins’ netminder is 5-0 this postseason with three shutouts, coming in the Pens’ last three home games. Since giving up four goals on 11 shots and being pulled from Game 1 (a game which Wilkes-Barre came back to win, 5-4), Chiodo has stopped all 50 shots he has faced.
Chicago is going to have to do something about Milwaukee’s league-leading offense. The Admirals have taken 185 shots on goal in four games, forcing Kari Lehtonen to post performances of 56, 23, 54 and 40 saves. The Finnish phenom’s impressive .935 save percentage in the series hasn’t been nearly enough to keep the Wolves from the brink of elimination.
They say you can’t win three games in a row without winning one first. The Phantoms and Wolves try to take the first step on Wednesday. Follow the action live on the AHL’s real-time scoreboard, beginning at 7:05 p.m. ET, and be sure to get all of the news, stats and features from the Calder Cup 2004 Playoffs at caldercup.com.