Game 3 Preview: Series Shifts to San DiegoMay 7, 2019
The Gulls return to San Diego with a 2-0 series lead after two hard-fought wins in Bakersfield last weekend. With Game 3 tonight the Gulls will look to take a commanding series lead in their first home game of the Pacific Division Finals at Pechanga Arena (7 p.m.).
The Gulls will enter tonight’s game having won four straight road games to begin the postseason, tied with Toronto as the only teams to win four road games in the postseason. Dating to the regular season, San Diego has earned points in 10 straight road games (5-0-2-0 regular season, 4-0 playoffs), in addition to 26 of their last 30 road contests (17-4-4-2 regular season, 4-0 playoffs).
The first two games of the Pacific Division Finals featured what playoff hockey is all about, an increased level of speed, heightened physicality and unforgettable goals.
Game 1 was arguably the most historic in Gulls AHL history, if not the most remarkable. In his first game back from the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Comtois ended the fifth longest game in AHL history with the game-winner in the fourth overtime. Goaltender Jeff Glass stopped the most shots in Gulls postseason history (51) to earn his fourth win of the playoffs, tying the Gulls all-time mark (also Jhonas Enroth). The game last five hours and 10 minutes from puck drop to Comtois’ winner, with a total of 124:20 of game time elapsed before the rookie left wing found the back of the net at 12:20 a.m. Saturday morning.
Game 2 began less than 19 hours later following the conclusion of Game 1. The Gulls secured a 4-1 win to take their first-ever 2-0 series lead and secure a fifth win of the postseason for the first time in club history. With a goal and two assists, Isac Lundestrom became the youngest Gull to record three points in a playoff game at 19 years and six months while Adam Cracknell also recorded a goal and two assists to push his point streak to four games (3-3=6). Comtois scored again in Game 2, the eventual game-winning goal.
“I’m not sure we expected that, but he’s been a very dominant force in junior hockey,” said head coach Dallas Eakins on Max Comtois. “He earned his way to start the year with the Anaheim Ducks, spent a little bit of time here with us. He was at the World Junior Championships, he was captain of Team Canada and he’s had a lot of different experiences this year. It’s great to see him come in and be invested with us right away.”
In adding Comtois and Lundestrom to the lineup, the two have combined for three goals and two assists in their first career Calder Cup Playoffs contests. In Game 1 Kevin Roy joined the rookie duo, and after his wife gave birth to their second child Friday morning, Cracknell replaced Roy in the lineup to created a dominant line that recorded seven points in Game 2.
“I think we’ve been doing it all year, it doesn’t matter where anyone is coming from. It’s great to have those guys,” said Adam Cracknell regarding the return Max Comtois and Isac Lundestrom to the Gulls lineup. “They’re obviously great players with bright futures ahead of them. It's great experience for them to be a part of this culture right now in playoff hockey. They’ve responded the last two games the way that we want them to and they should be proud of themselves.”
The series has presented fans with a defensively dominant brand of hockey and, according to both coaches and players, they aren’t planning on changing much. Through the first two games, over 10 periods of hockey when including the quadruple overtime Game 1, San Diego netminders Jeff Glass and Kevin Boyle have been at the top of their respective games. Glass played the entirety of first matchup and relieved Boyle after a collision late in the second contest. The two goaltenders have allowed just three goals in the series thus far, posting a combined 0.95 GAA and a .963 SV%.
Glass enters tonight having won four straight starts to post a 1.79 GAA and .935 SV% in six appearances this postseason. Glass ranks second in GAA and third in SV% among goaltenders to appear in more than one game. In five career road postseason games, Glass is a perfect 5-0 with a 1.43 GAA and .952 SV%.
With the Gulls returning home, the team knows they can rely on fan support to push them over the edge. After leading the league in attendance for a second straight season, players expect the building to be loud and fans to be ready for a thrilling Game 3.
“I’ve played in a few places and this is one of the best, if not, I truly do think the best atmosphere to play in the American Hockey League,” said Jeff Glass on the home crowd at Pechanga Arena San Diego. “I’m thrilled. I’m excited to get out there on Wednesday and then again on Friday and make some noise.”
Eakins also had his say on what the crowed consistently brings night in, night out for his team.
“Playing at home has been such a great privilege to play in front of fans like that. I’ve said it a thousand times, they’re like an extra skater out there for us,” said the fourth-year San Diego coach. “They support us when we’re down and they keep pushing us when we’re up. I know our guys love playing at home and it doesn’t matter what night of the week it is at our arena, it’s always rocking.”