CHICAGO WOLVES (1-1) AT SAN DIEGO GULLS (1-1)
GONE BACK TO CALI
During the International Hockey League years, it was no big deal for the Chicago Wolves to travel to California to fulfill their postseason dreams. In 1996, 1998 and 2000, the Wolves ventured to the Golden State during the Turner Cup Playoffs — and in the latter two years came away with the championship.
But the Wolves shifted to the American Hockey League in 2001 and the trips to California dried up. In fact, the Wolves went from May 3, 2000, to Jan. 10, 2018, without touching down in Cali. The Wolves made three stops during last season’s visit and dropped games to San Diego and Ontario while taking care of Bakersfield. The only other time the Wolves visited San Diego occurred on Jan. 27, 1995, when the Gulls earned a 6-2 victory in IHL action.
The stakes are much higher this time around as the Wolves are knotted 1-1 with the San Diego Gulls heading into Game 3 of the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals. San Diego has gone 3-2 on Pechanga Arena ice during the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs while the Wolves are 2-3 away from Allstate Arena. The Gulls are riding high after taking Game 2 in Chicago, but the Wolves are encouraged by their play during that game.
“I thought we did actually play better in the second game (than Game 1),” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “We think we have the right game plan that we need. Obviously our execution has to be better. We feel that our special teams have got to be a little bit better. But we’re in a good place.
“I felt like in the first 45 minutes of Game 2, we controlled the puck a lot. That’s more our game. We had good opportunities — didn’t have a lot. Fatigue stepped in. But we were more stingy. And our game is a very stingy game. We don’t give up much — and then we capitalize when we get our chances.”
The Wolves’ pair of primary goaltenders, Oscar Dansk and Max Lagace, produced remarkably similar rate stats during the regular season. Dansk posted a 2.46 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in 40 games while Lagace produced a 2.43 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 33 appearances.
That left head coach Rocky Thompson feeling good about his options as the Wolves entered the postseason. While Lagace played Games 2 and 3 of the Central Division Semifinals against Grand Rapids, Dansk earned the win over the Griffins in Game 4 and hasn’t left the crease since. While playing every minute of the last 10 games, Dansk has recorded a 7-3 record with a 2.20 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
Presuming he starts Game 3, Dansk should jump into the top 5 on a pair of franchise postseason lists. Dansk has played 805 minutes, so he should take over fifth from Stephane Beauregard (820 mins). He owns 329 saves, which is creeping up on Michael Garnett’s 350 that rank fifth on the Wolves list.
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 Games 1 and 2 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 saw 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 — or you’re going to. 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).
393: The Wolves’ 30-man roster boasts 393 games of Calder Cup Playoffs experience. Alternate captain Curtis McKenzie leads the way with 65 AHL postseason appearances while forward Tye McGinn owns 41 games and center T.J. Tynan has 33. 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).
THE SERIES SO FAR…
- The Wolves were unable to solve Gulls goaltender Kevin Boyle as San Diego evened the series with its second postseason shutout in franchise history.
- Chicago had a 29-23 advantage in shots on net, but couldn’t convert despite four power-play opportunities.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced.
- 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.
WESTERN CONFERENCE finals schedule
|Game 1||Wolves 5, Gulls 4 (OT)||Allstate Arena|
|Game 2||Gulls 3, Wolves 0||Allstate Arena|
|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|