When Grande Prairie Storm head coach Matt Keillor gathers his players for his pre-game pep talk on Tuesday night he might want to reflect back on some Storm history for encouragement.
The spring of 2002 to be exact.
That year the Storm advanced to the Alberta Junior Hockey League final after falling behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven semi-final against the Canmore Eagles.
The Eagles had finished first in the South Division (97 points) and the Storm fifth (77 points) in the North Division.
The Storm came back to win the series defeating the Eagles in double overtime in Game 7 to advance to the AJHL final against the Drayton Valley Thunder.
It remains the most impressive playoff comeback in the history of the AJHL.
This year's edition of the Storm have a chance to do something even more impressive.
Following a 7-0 loss to the Spruce Grove Saints in Revolution Place Arena on Monday the Storm are down 3-0 in a best-of-seven North Division semi-final. The Saints were the top team in the North finishing 38 points up on the fourth place Storm.
The comeback could start on Tuesday when the Storm host the Saints in Game 4 of the playoff series at 7:30 p.m.
If they hope to come back in the series the Storm will have to find a way to counter Spruce Grove's tenacious forecheck.
The offensive zone pressure was relentless as Spruce Grove took 2-0 and 6-0 leads and shut the Storm out for the second time in three games in the series.
It was a giveaway off some pressure that led to the winning goal – scored by Chase Olsen 9:49 into the opening frame.
That pressure also helped lead to 15 shots on goal in the first and 20 more in the second. The Saints took their foot off the gas in the third firing just 10 at beleaguered Storm netminder Charles-Olivier Levesque. The Storm managed 18 on Nolan Kent at the other end.
While the goal by Olsen was the winner, the turning point in the game might have come five minutes into the second.
While killing a penalty Storm forward Conner Blake had a breakaway when the score was at 2-0 and the Saints on a powerplay. The sticky ice (a problem for both teams all game long) caused him to lose control as he broke in on Kent. Eight seconds later the Storm took another penalty at the other end and the Saints scored on the two-man advantage to make it 3-0.
Nick Leyer got that goal at 5:22 of the second after Logan Gaine had made it 2-0 in the first.
On the same powerplay Olsen got his second of the game at 5:52. Brent Trentham made it 5-0 at 13:07 and Seth Fyten 6-0 at 15:04. The only goal of the third came off the stick of Jarrod Gourlay at the 20:00 mark.
Levesque, despite the six goals, was the best Storm player making point-blank save after save to keep it from going double-digits.
There were only three powerplay opportunities in the game with the Saints having two, scoring on both, and the Storm one.
Four affiliated Storm players – Tristan Jones, John Sullivan, Bryce Osepchuk and Devan Klassen – were inserted into the lineup for Monday's game.
If the Storm win Tuesday the series switched to Spruce Grove Friday before returning to Grande Prairie on Sunday.