Kelowna Rockets become second WHL team to overcome 3-0 series deficit

As if people didn't already hear Tyson Baillie's name without thinking of Tyson Barrie, now both have scored playoff goals for Kelowna Rockets that will have major memory burn.

Perhaps Kelowna coming back from a 3-0 series deficit to oust the Seattle Thunderbirds doesn't seem so big, since the Rockets finished 50 points ahead in the standings. Considering Kelowna's injuries — it essentially played with only four defencemen in Game 7 after playing an overtime game one night earlier in Seattle — it is significant. It also affirms about how junior hockey is always about a new hope emerging, in this case Baillie, the 17-year-old who scored all three Rockets goals in the >3-2 win, including the winner 5:10 into overtime.

It's not as big as the championship-winning goal Barrie scored in 2009, but it is only the second time in WHL history a team has fought off the final strike four times in a row to win a series. It's only the ninth time it's happened in the the Canadian Hockey League. The Rockets' final two wins came in overtime on back-to-back nights.

"I was screaming for the puck and [Kelowna defenceman] Madison [Bowey] with his great vision hit me backdoor and I just one-timed it along the ice because I knew [Seattle goalie Brandon] Glover was down and out," Baillie told Kelowna's AM 1050. "Words can't describe it. I was just going crazy. I just kind of blacked out."

With captain Colton Sissons among the injured in suits and ties, Baillie had a huge series. The Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., native who is up for the 2014 NHL draft had seven goals and 12 points across the run of seven games. He was in position to have his second game-winner of the series before Seattle's overage captain Luke Lockhart jammed in the tying goal with 7.3 seconds left.

"It was heartbreaking because we thought we had the game," Baillie said. "Our motto for the past four games has been 'believe.' Someone said 'let's believe' and we went out and did it."

The win sets up an all-B.C. second-round series between the Rockets and the more rested Kamloops Blazers, beginning Saturday in Kelowna. How coach Ryan Huska's Rockets manage to refocus and replenish themselves should factor heavily into how the series unfolds. Bowey, New Jersey Devils second-rounder Damon Severson, MacKenzie Johnston and rookie Riley Stadel were the only regular defencemen Kelowna had available, although centre Colton Heffley took a few shifts on D.

"Originally, we would have been looked at as the favourite — a slight favourite — because of where we finished in the regular season," Huska told AM 1050. "But with where we are injury-wise, we're probably going to be an underdog. They have very good speed and skill on that Kamloops team. They have a good mix of grit and physical play. We're definitely going to be behind the eight-ball with seven regular guys missing from our lineup.

"But that's what makes this exciting," Huska added. "Guys really raised their level and that's what playoffs are all about. You really see the cream rise."

Huska said that in reference to his entire team, which would have had the dubious distinction of being on the losing end of the biggest first-round upset in WHL history if it had faltered at any point over the last four games. It especially applies to the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Baillie. He earned his spurs as an offensive player in the regular season with 29 goals and 56 points in 67 games despite being still shy of 17 when the campaign opened. Producing in the second season, especially for a team that was in dire straits, might change the perception of him.

"He's a smaller guy but he plays as big as anyone out there," right wing Dylen McKinlay said. "He has a nose for the net and has one of the best skill sets I've ever seen."

It's the third time in four seasons a team has dug out of a 3-0 hole. The Halifax Mooseheads did so against the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL's second round in 2012, with Jonathan Drouin scoring the Game 7 OT goal. In 2010, the Windsor Spitfires pulled it off against the Kitchener Rangers before going on to win the Memorial Cup.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.