CHICAGO WOLVES (1-2) AT SAN DIEGO GULLS (2-1)
PUTTING THE SPECIAL IN SPECIAL TEAMS
When asked for the primary reason the Chicago Wolves didn’t come away with the win in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night at Pechanga Arena, head coach Rocky Thompson didn’t mince words.
“Tonight was our power play,” Thompson said. “It was our power play. It was a big momentum shift. Their penalty kill did a good job. They got some big kills. Again, it boiled down to execution. We couldn’t execute. And then to give up a short-handed goal is extremely difficult. It’s a huge momentum shift and it took us a while to recover from it.”
To refresh everyone’s memory, the Wolves went 0 for 4 on the power play for the second consecutive game. Not only was it 0 for 4, but the Wolves had a 53-second 5-on-3 situation in the first period and received three minutes of a 5-on-4 due to a major penalty in the second. Neither panned out for Chicago. Moreover, as Thompson alluded to, San Diego’s Sam Steel turned one of the Wolves’ power plays on its ear when he swiped a pass in the offensive zone and raced in for the first short-handed goal allowed by the Wolves in the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Wolves are just 1 of 10 on the power play during the Western Conference Finals. If that’s a depressing statistic for the team, all it needs to do is think back to the last series and remember how that turned out. The Wolves went 0 for 11 on the power play in the first four games of the Central Division Finals against Iowa as the Wild forged a 2-2 tie in that best-of-seven series. Chicago even came up empty in its first power-play chance in Game 5. But then Daniel Carr produced a power-play goal and Curtis McKenzie added two as the Wolves regained control of that series. During the postseason, the Wolves are 6-1 when they score at least one PPG but 2-5 when they come up empty.
“At the end of the day, our power play has got to get going,” Thompson said. “It’s a big difference-maker in this series and right now it’s a liability for us.”
THE STREAKS STOP AT TWO
Yes, the Chicago Wolves have lost the last two games of this Western Conference Finals series, but they have made a habit of capping their losing streaks at two.
Chicago has not skated off the ice as the loser in three consecutive games since a Dec. 31/Jan. 2/Jan. 4 stretch against Iowa, Iowa and San Antonio (the latter a 3-0 loss to former Wolves goaltender Jordan Binnington that triggered his callup to the St. Louis Blues and the team’s improbable move from No. 31 in the NHL into the Stanley Cup Final).
Since that stretch, the Wolves have endured seven two-game losing streaks without allowing any of them to reach three. The last one occurred in the Central Division Finals when the Iowa Wild took Games 3 and 4 on May 8-10 — only to watch the Wolves recover with a 7-4 win in Game 5 and a 3-1 victory in Game 6 to wrap up the series.
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. Glass also earned the game-winning goal in his fifth professional game on April 13 vs. Manitoba at Allstate Arena, which means he owns four GWGs in 20 games as a pro.
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.
9: Tonight’s Game 4 marks the ninth time in Wolves history they’ve faced a 2-1 deficit in a best-of-seven postseason series — and the fourth time since joining the AHL in 2001. The Wolves have gone 3-5 in the previous Game 4s in this situation. The wins have happened against Syracuse (2002 Western Conference Semifinal), Manitoba (2001 Western Conference Final) and Houston (2000 Western Conference Final). Not coincidentally, those are the three series that the Wolves came back to capture. The last time the Wolves faced this situation was the 2017 Central Division Finals vs. Grand Rapids.
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.
232: The San Diego Gulls’ 20 active players for Games 1, 2 and 3 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 goaltender Max Lagace (1 game).
358: If you’ve suited up for the Wolves, chances are better than 50/50 that you’ve played in the National Hockey League or are on your way. 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).
THE SERIES SO FAR…
- The Wolves jumped on the board early with forward Tye McGinn’s rebound goal at 1:35, but the Gulls posted the next three goals to pick up the Game 3 win at Pechanga Arena.
- Forward Curtis McKenzie scored with 3:30 left to pull the Wolves within one, but couldn’t find the equalizer despite skating with an extra attacker.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk notched 26 saves.
- 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||Gulls 3, Wolves 2||Pechanga Arena|
|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|