The Abbotsford Canucks enter tonight’s must-win game three against the Calgary Wranglers down 2-0 in a best-of-five series.
A win and the club lives to play another day. A loss and the season is over.
And while the task to win three-straight games to eliminate the top-ranked team in the American Hockey League seems daunting – it is not impossible. One only needs to look at the history of best-of-five series in the AHL to see that it has been done.
The AHL has played a total of 136 best-of-five series and of those series a team has gone up 2-0 and won that series 79 times. The team up 2-0 has gone on to sweep the opposing club 47 times. A total of six teams have come back from a 2-0 deficit to win the series in five.
This means that historically the Abbotsford Canucks have a seven per cent chance to come back and win the series.
"We enjoy playing here, we get a lot of energy from the building... We use it to our advantage."— X - Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) May 2, 2023
Jeremy Colliton speaks about the energy in @AbbyCentre ahead of tomorrow's Game 3. pic.twitter.com/4O3fNSz0bA
Hopeful fans can point to the most recent team to achieve the feat – the 2014-2015 Grand Rapids Griffins who battled back from 2-0 to eliminate the Toronto Marlies in the Western Conference quarterfinals. Playing in an identical 2-3 format, the Griffins lost the first two games in Toronto (7-4 and 5-2). The club then returned home and posted wins of 5-2, 5-4 and 3-1 to eliminate the Marlies.
Grand Rapids went on to advance to the Western Conference finals that season. That team, an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, featured current NHL players Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi.
The 2012-13 Providence Bruins also completed an incredible comeback against the Hershey Bears in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals that season. The series played a 2-2-1 format and the Bruins lost the first two games on home ice. They then won two games in Hershey before clinching the series with a 3-2 win back on home ice.
That team featured current St. Louis Blues defenceman Torey Krug, former Vancouver Canucks defenceman Matt Bartkowski and former Vancouver Giants forward Craig Cunningham.
The AHL did not have any best-of-series from 2004 to 2011, but in 2002 the St. John’s Maple Leafs dropped the first two games on the road to the Lowell Lock Monsters. St. John’s then won the next two in Newfoundland and then won the deciding game five in Lowell.
That team had former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nik Antropov and goalie Mikael Tellqvist.
Providence also completed a reverse sweep on the Hartford Wolfpack in the 2001 Calder Cup playoffs. The Bruins lost the first two on the road, won two at home and then had to win a game five in Hartford. Former Canucks goalie Kay Whitmore was the starting goalie on that team.
The AHL adopted a best-of-five series format in 1996 and that lasted until 2003. The only other two times a team came back from a 2-0 deficit was in 1997 when both the Bruins and the Springfield Falcons accomplished the feat. Teams went back and forth hosting games that year and Providence upset the Worcester IceCats, while Springfield (lower seed) closed the series on home ice again the Portland Pirates.
As for a more recent 2-3 format comeback, last season the Manitoba Moose were down 2-0 to the Milwaukee Admirals and then won two on home ice to force a game five but lost the deciding game five in Winnipeg.
Game three occurs tonight at 7 p.m. at the Abbotsford Centre. Game four, if necessary, is set for Friday (May 5) at the AC. Game five, if necessary, will take place at the AC on Sunday (May 7).