Hitmen boosted by belief

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

KELOWNA -- They're facing a mountain.

But the Calgary Hitmen are focusing on the molehill.

Trailing the WHL Championship 3-0 to the Kelowna Rockets, the Hitmen are well aware the odds are stacked so high against them, there isn't a casino on the planet that would accept a bet on the now-underdogs winning this series. Traditionally, falling behind 3-0 in a series -- in any sport -- is the kiss of death.

The number of teams who have pulled off the remarkable comeback is, indeed, extremely short.

But the Hitmen, who take on the Rockets tonight in Game 4 (8 p.m., Shaw TV, Fan 960), insist they're capable of adding their name to that longshot list.

Co-captain Carson McMillan, whose baseball skills rival his hockey prowess, remembers watching the Boston Red Sox shock the world by climbing out of a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees in 2004.

"They were a good team, and they were in a tough spot like we are," McMillan said.

"They found a way to win and go on to win the World Series. That's what we need to do by taking it one game at a time."

As strange as it sounds, there are a few factors and statistical probabilities working in the Hitmen's favour.

A win tonight means a return to the Saddledome, where the team was -- until this series -- nearly unbeatable. A home victory in Game 5 Thursday would mean a 3-2 deficit, which, all of a sudden, doesn't seem as daunting.

The Hitmen need four straight wins. That's a feat they accomplished 14 separate times this season.

After three straight series sweeps, Calgary is well-rested.

That suggests the longer the series goes, the bigger advantage the Stampede City squad would hold, especially with Rockets star Jamie Benn on the sidelines with a suspected concussion.

The powerplay, which was tops in the league during the season, has yet to yield a single goal this series.

The club's top four scorers have failed to find the scoresheet once in the first three games.

Can all of these statistical anomolies continue to defy logic?

The Hitmen, coming off arguably their best performance of the series in Game 3, say no.

"That's what the thought pattern is with this hockey team," said co-captain Kyle Bortis.

"We've gotta believe. We have to win four games, and that's the big picture.

"But for us, we're going into tomorrow focused on winning one game. We have to win one game four times."

So, there are a few reasons to believe the impossible is possible.

But everything else suggests otherwise. They're up against a hot goaltender and a team that has beaten them four straight times.

But after a dominant -- yet unrewarded -- third period in Game 3, the Hitmen insist they'll throw everything they have at the Rockets tonight.

"We just went over that third period," Bortis said yesterday. "We were a very desperate hockey club. And that's something we have to do tomorrow."


Videos

Photos