History is definitely not on the side of the Buffalo Gamblers.
Teams facing 3-0 deficits in a best-of-seven playoff series almost never have anything to look forward to but the next season. However, the key word in that sentence is "almost."
"I don't think I've been beaten in four straight at anything ever," said Gamblers player/general manager Rich Kilgour, whose team, trailing 3-0, will face the Brampton Excelsiors in Game Four of the Ontario Lacrosse Association's Major Division championship series at 8:30 tonight in Marine Midland Arena.
"That includes tiddly winks and lacrosse games in the backyard against my brothers," Kilgour said. "I'm not ready to start now. I don't think we're out of anything. We can beat these guys four straight times."
No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win baseball's World Series or even a best-of-seven league championship series. Pro basketball offers no hope either because it's never been done in a National Basketball Association best-of-seven series of any kind. It didn't happen during the nine-year run of the American Basketball Association.
Only the history of the National Hockey League offers a glimmer. The Gamblers can look to the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs, who rallied from a 3-0 hole to beat the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals, and the 1974-75 New York Islanders, who did the same against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the quarterfinals.
But before the Gamblers can even think about winning four straight, they have to win one.
"Whenever a team goes up, 3-0, in a series, Game Four becomes the toughest one to win," said Gamblers associate coach Les Wakeling. "They will want to try to bury us early, take away our hearts. But until that last game is over, we won't discount ourselves. If things start to click, who knows?"
Brampton, which has won 23 of 25 games this season, including five of six against the Gamblers, has been clicking on all cylinders ever since falling behind, 5-2, in Game One. In Sunday night's third game, the Excelsiors used a suffocating defense to prevent Buffalo from going on any offensive spurts. That doesn't mean the Excelsiors are expecting to walk into the Mann Cup championship series.
"It wouldn't surprise me at all if they came out and blew us out next game," Brampton forward Jim Veltman said after Sunday's 11-7 victory, when the Excelsiors controlled play most of the evening and finished with a 47-35 edge in shots. "We have to be just as well-prepared as we were in the first three games because I know those guys and they'll never quit."
If the Gamblers (16-9-1) are to extend their season, they'll need to reignite an offense that has produced only 20 goals in the first three games.
They've dug themselves holes by taking untimely penalties, and Brampton's defense has silenced Paul Gait, who has been double- and triple-teamed throughout and been held to just three goals.
Buffalo is also facing a red-hot goaltender.
"We know we'll be in for a real test in Game Four," said Excelsiors goalie Pat O'Toole, the backbone of the Buffalo Bandits' 1996 Major Indoor Lacrosse League championship team.
"They know how to win, all you have to do is look at their fingers. They didn't get all those Mann Cup rings and (MILL) rings without knowing what it takes."