SAN DIEGO GULLS (0-1) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (1-0)
A THRILLING ROLLER-COASTER RIDE
Befitting two teams who’ve earned their spots among the American Hockey League’s final four with a chance to hoist the Calder Cup in 2019, the Chicago Wolves and San Diego Gulls never let each other get more than one goal ahead during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Friday night at Allstate Arena.
The Wolves took a 1-0 lead in the first period, but San Diego answered. The Wolves took a 2-1 lead in the second period, but San Diego answered. The Wolves took a 3-2 lead in the third period, but San Diego answered twice to put the hosts on the spot.
When defenseman Nic Hague scored with 3:05 left in regulation, the Wolves were headed to overtime for their second consecutive Game 1 overtime and the Gulls were destined for their third straight Game 1 overtime. Since the teams had combined to win all three of their previous Game 1 overtime opportunities, somebody’s luck had to change.
When Wolves rookie center Cody Glass found himself behind the San Diego defense at 14:03 of overtime, he took advantage of the breakaway and wristed the puck past Gulls goaltender Jeff Glass (no relation) to give the Wolves the 1-0 series lead. Glass’ teammates celebrated by mauling him along the glass next to their penalty box, but the Wolves knew they were fortunate to win.
While San Diego didn’t come away with the victory Friday night, the Gulls outshot the Wolves 44-28 for Chicago’s worst shot differential of the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs. It marked the first time the Wolves won a playoff game with such a wide differential since Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on April 25, 2012, vs. San Antonio.
“I thought we got outplayed tonight,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “I don’t think we’ve been outplayed in the playoffs, per se, (though) we’ve lost a few games. Tonight I thought we were outplayed and I thought we kind of shot ourselves in the foot. We gave a team that’s very, very offensively talented — and structured — opportunities to play to their strengths because of our puck management issues and mistakes and unwillingness to simplify our game.
“We’re going to learn from this, without a doubt. We don’t want to play more games like that. To me, that’s playing with fire. We can be better. We can be better. So we were fortunate tonight.”
Thompson credited goaltender Oscar Dansk, who set personal postseason- and season-highs with 40 saves, with saving his teammates. “I thought Oscar did a great job keeping us in the game,” Thompson said. “They were playing really well (in the third period) and we were reeling and Oscar kept us in there.”
THE SERIES SO FAR
- For the second postseason series in a row, rookie center Cody Glass produced the game-winning goal in overtime — scoring at 14:03 of the first OT to give the Wolves the Game 1 win.
- Forwards Tobias Lindberg, Daniel Carr and Tye McGinn gave the Wolves leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 before needing rookie defenseman Nic Hague’s goal with 3:05 left in regulation to force OT.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted a season-high 40 saves.
BY THE NUMBERS
3: Only one AHL player has three game-winning goals during the 2019 postseason: Wolves rookie center Cody Glass. The Vegas Golden Knights’ first draft pick (sixth overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft) racked up his third in 12 professional games at the 14:03 mark of overtime in Friday’s Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. He earned his first in Game 4 of the Central Division Semifinals at Grand Rapids, then picked up his second GWG 18:39 into overtime of Game 1 of the Central Division Finals on May 1 against Iowa.
4: Left wing Daniel Carr became the fourth Wolves player in the last 13 seasons to earn the AHL’s Most Valuable Player honor. He received the Les Cunningham Award prior to Game 1 of the Central Division Semifinals on April 19 and joined Kenny Agostino (2016-17), Jason Krog (2007-08) and Darren Haydar (2006-07) in this exclusive club. Hershey is the only other AHL team to have more than one MVP since the Wolves joined the league prior to the 2001-02 season.
21: When the Wolves win Game 1 of a postseason series, good things nearly always ensue. When the Wolves defeated the Iowa Wild in Game 1 of the Central Division Finals — then went on to take the series in six games — it marked the 21st consecutive time that Chicago has taken Game 1 and gone on to take the series as well. The streak began way back in 1998 when the Wolves swept Manitoba in the IHL’s Western Conference Quarterfinal. The Wolves are 21-1 when winning Game 1 — and the only loss came to the Las Vegas Thunder in the 1996 Western Conference Semifinal. One of the key contributors on that Las Vegas squad was high-scoring forward Ken Quinney, the father of current Wolves center Gage Quinney. Gage was nine months old when the Thunder knocked the Wolves out of those playoffs.
232: The San Diego Gulls’ 20 active players for Game 1 featured 14 young men who played for the Anaheim Ducks — their NHL partner — at some point during the regular season. Those 20 players combined for 232 NHL appearances during 2018-19. In contrast, the Wolves suited up just three players who earned some NHL action this season: Forward Tomas Hyka (17 games), who made the stretch pass to spring Cody Glass for the game-winning breakaway, forward Daniel Carr (6 games), who scored a goal Friday night, and backup goaltender Max Lagace (1 game).
358: If you’ve suited up for the Wolves, chances are better than 50/50 that you’ve also played in the National Hockey League. Of the 623 players who have suited up for the Wolves over 25 seasons, 358 also have competed in the NHL. That 57.5 percent overall success rate is even higher among goaltenders. Of the 55 players who’ve tended the net for the Wolves over the years — starting with original goaltenders Ray LeBlanc and Wendell Young and continuing through current Wolves Oscar Dansk and Max Lagace — 38 boast NHL experience (69.1 percent).
374: The Wolves’ 30-man roster boasts 374 games of Calder Cup Playoffs experience. Alternate captain Curtis McKenzie leads the way with 64 AHL postseason appearances while forward Tye McGinn owns 40 games and center T.J. Tynan has 32. McKenzie won the Calder Cup with the 2014 Texas Stars while Tynan earned his ring with the 2016 Lake Erie Monsters. This year’s Wolves roster features 3 games’ worth of Stanley Cup Playoff experience (Griffin Reinhart 2, McKenzie 1), 44 games in the DEL (Brooks Macek) and 24 games in the Czech League (Tomas Hyka).
WESTERN CONFERENCE finals schedule
|Game 1||Wolves 5, Gulls 4 (OT)||Allstate Arena|
|Game 2||Saturday, May 18||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Game 3||Wednesday, May 22||Pechanga Arena||9 p.m.||Watch|
|Game 4||Friday, May 24||Pechanga Arena||9 p.m.||Watch|
|Game 5*||Saturday, May 25||Pechanga Arena||9 p.m.||Watch|
|Game 6*||Monday, May 27||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Game 7*||Wednesday, May 29||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|