SAN DIEGO GULLS (2-3) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (3-2)
WHO’LL JOIN CHARLOTTE IN THE FINALS?
On Sunday night, the Charlotte Checkers took care of business on home ice in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals to earn a spot in the 2019 Calder Cup Finals. Tonight, the Chicago Wolves can take care of business on home ice in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals to earn the other spot.
As everyone in the Wolves camp will attest, it won’t be easy to get the fourth and final victory over the Pacific Division postseason champion San Diego Gulls and seize the franchise’s first Calder Cup Finals berth since 2008.
The Wolves scored just one more goal than the Gulls over the first five games and the teams have either been tied or within one goal of each other for 268 minutes and 15 seconds of the 340:04 they’ve played (78.9 percent of the series).
“Every game has been so tight and so tough and could go either way,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “We’ll have to be at our best. This will have to be the best game we’ve played all year in Game 6.”
How did the Wolves turn this series around after losing Games 2 and 3 to fall behind 2-1? San Diego coach Dallas Eakins — who won the 2002 Calder Cup while a Wolves defenseman — has some ideas.
“Every time in that offensive zone, especially in the second period, we were getting chances at their net, but they would get a stick on it or the secondary guy would block it,” Eakins said after Game 5. “That’s playoff hockey, guys going the extra mile to get in front of pucks.”
That jibes with Thompson’s general thoughts about his players: “What I think is we’re getting better. Not monumentally, but incrementally. You can see the shot totals against are getting a little bit lower every single game – and that’s more our style of game. We’re a pretty stingy team. I think our 5-on-5 game has been improving steadily from Game 1 to Game 5.”
Regardless of which Western Conference team reaches the 2019 Calder Cup Finals, the Charlotte Checkers will own home-ice advantage. The Checkers will host Game 1 at 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, with Game 2 slated for 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 2. If necessary, Charlotte’s Bojangles’ Coliseum will be the site for Game 6 (6 p.m. on Thursday, June 13) and Game 7 (6 p.m. on Friday, June 14).
MAX MAKES HISTORY
Wolves goaltender Max Lagace started Game 5 for his first appearance since Game 3 of the Central Division Semifinals on April 23. Not only did he earn the victory while stopping 19 of 21 shots, Lagace stamped his name in the record books by becoming the first goaltender in AHL postseason history (that’s 83 seasons) and in Wolves history (that’s 25 seasons) to score a goal.
How’d it happen? When official Mitch Dunning raised his arm at 10:24 of the third period to signal a delayed penalty on Wolves center T.J. Tynan for holding the stick, San Diego goalie Kevin Boyle left the ice for an extra attacker. Gulls 19-year-old center Ines Lundestrom came down the left wing and fired a rising shot that Lagace fought off with his blocker.
The Gulls played keepaway until Lundestrom reached the puck by the Wolves bench and guided it backward toward his defensemen, but his 100-foot pass split them and glided into the empty net. As the last Wolves player to touch the puck, Lagace received credit for the goal at 10:49 of the third.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: After ending Game 4 with a goal 6:01 into the second overtime — officially at 10:52 p.m. San Diego time Friday night — Wolves left wing Daniel Carr earned his second game-winning goal in less than 24 hours when he gave Chicago a 3-2 lead in Game 5 with his goal at 5:24 of the third period — officially at 9:02 p.m. San Diego time Saturday night. Carr and Wolves rookie center Cody Glass share the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs lead with three GWGs apiece. Carr picked up his first of the postseason when the Wolves clinched the Central Division Finals in Game 6 vs. Iowa on May 13.
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 against the Grand Rapids Griffins 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.
12: Tonight’s game marks the 12th time in franchise history the Wolves have carried a 3-2 lead into Game 6 of a best-of-seven series. Not only have the Wolves won all 11 previous series, they’ve only needed to go to Game 7 twice (2010 West Division Semifinal against Milwaukee and 2002 Western Conference Semifinal at Syracuse). The list of nine Game 6 triumphs includes the 2000 Turner Cup Final against Grand Rapids and the 2008 Calder Cup Finals against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Wolves’ most recent series-clinching Game 6 triumph occurred exactly two weeks ago when Chicago closed out Iowa in the Central Division Finals by a 3-1 decision.
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 the first five games 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), left wing Daniel Carr (6 games) 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…
- After San Diego tied it 2-2 early in the third, the Wolves responded with three goals including one credited to goaltender Max Lagace to take a 3-2 series lead.
- Forward Daniel Carr posted his second game-winning goal while forwards Tomas Hyka, Cody Glass and Tye McGinn also scored while defenseman Zach Whitecloud notched two assists.
- Lagace posted 19 saves in his first appearance since April 23.
- AHL MVP Daniel Carr scored 6 minutes and 1 second into the second overtime to give the Wolves the Game 4 decision in front of 12,147 at Pechanga Arena.
- Forwards T.J. Tynan and Curtis McKenzie set up Carr’s GWG while defenseman Griffin Reinhart’s first postseason goal gave Chicago a 1-0 lead 4:17 into the second period.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 40 shots — 20 of them after regulation.
- 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||Wolves 2, Gulls 1 (2 OT)||Pechanga Arena|
|Game 5||Wolves 5, Gulls 2||Pechanga Arena|
|Game 6||Monday, May 27||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Game 7*||Wednesday, May 29||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|