Game 3 Preview: Gulls vs. WolvesMay 22, 2019
For the first time in club history the Gulls will host a Conference Finals game tonight.
The Gulls return home after splitting the first two games of the series against the Chicago Wolves. The series resumes tonight with Game 3 at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m., XTRA 1360). San Diego will also host Game 4 on Friday (May 24) and Saturday (May 25). The Gulls have won the most games in a single postseason in club history (8) and have not lost in regulation in 10 straight playoff contests (7-3; all three losses in OT).
Kevin Boyle stopped all 29 shots in Game 2 at Allstate Arena to record the second shutout in Gulls postseason history. Dating to Game 2 of the Pacific Division Finals against Bakersfield, Boyle has won back-to-back games this postseason, stopping 48-of-49 shots to post a 0.55 GAA and .980 SV% over the two games.
“It’s going to be awesome. We saw it all throughout playoffs so far,” said Kevin Boyle on returning home for Games 3, 4 and 5 in San Diego. “The crowd has been incredible and it has given us so much momentum in every game. The height that we get from them every single night, it’s a huge advantage for us.”
With the win on the road in Game 2, the Gulls have not lost in regulation in 14 straight road games, (5-0-2-0 regular season, 5-2 playoffs; both OT losses), in addition to 28 of their last 34 road contests (17-4-4-2 regular season, 5-2 playoffs). With three games in a span of four nights on the horizon, the Gulls enter tonight’s contest with a 4-2 record in six previous Game 3’s. With 16 all-time postseason wins, San Diego has won more playoff games than any other Pacific Division club.
Following a long trip home from Chicago, Gulls players and coaches returned to Pechanga Arena to find a crowd of fans waiting in the rain to welcome them home. America’s finest fans are expected to bring that same dedication and energy to the rink this week as the Gulls play three games in four days.
“Our fans are always incredible. That was shown again when we got off the plane there. It’s been raining forever and we pull up to our arena and there’s a whole bunch of our fans soaking wet there to greet us back,” said head coach Dallas Eakins. “I always look at them as an extra skater out there, they’re excellent. Obviously, we know the ins and outs of our own building. We play a gritty game. Our building has been around for I think 52 years, it’s a gritty place. I love that it’s like that.”
San Diego’s attendance of 12,005 fans in Game 4 on Friday, May 10 was the largest AHL playoffs crowd (excluding Calder Cup Finals) dating to Game 5 of the North Division Finals on May 13, 2005 (Rochester at Manitoba; 15,015). Although it is not likely that record will be bested again tonight, players expect the fans in attendance to be a difference maker in the game.
“It’s going to be great. We’re expecting great things from them and they’re expecting great things from us. We’re excited to be back in our rink. We did our job in Chicago that got split,” said the league’s leading point scorer, Adam Cracknell. “We knew it was going to be a tough-fought series. Coming home, we wanted to use that to our advantage. It’s a tough barn to play in and we’re just really looking forward to getting going.”
Cracknell, a veteran leader for the Gulls, co-leads the Calder Cup Playoffs in scoring (6-9=15) and ranks tied for second in assists and tied third in goals. He also currently has a three-game point/assist streak (0-4=4) dating to Game 6 of the Pacific Division Finals. Center Sam Carrick (6-7=13) co-leads San Diego in goals and ranks tied for third among playoff leaders in goals and scoring. In addition, Carrick is San Diego’s all-time postseason leader in points (10-10=20), goals and assists. On the back end, Andy Welinski co-leads AHL defensemen in scoring (3-6=9) and goals, and is tied for second in assists, while Jaycob Megna (+11) and Jacob Larsson lead AHL defenseman in plus/minus (+10) while ranking third and fifth respectively among all skaters.
Chicago’s leading scorer in the regular season and AHL MVP Daniel Carr missed the First Round (five games) due to injury, but has scored at a point-per-game pace in eight playoff contests (3-5=8), including a power-play goal in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
Forwards Tye MgGinn (4-6=10) and Tomas Hyka (2-8=10) co-lead the Wolves in playoff scoring. Cody Glass, selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round (sixth overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft, has scored nine points (5-4=9) in 13 games after joining Chicago following the conclusion of his junior season with the Portland Winterhawks.
Tonight marks only the second time in their AHL history Chicago has traveled to San Diego. The lone meeting came on Jan. 10, 2018 (2-1 Gulls win), the first time since May 3, 2000 the club had visited San Diego in any capacity.
During their time in the International Hockey League, the Chicago Wolves traveled to California in the postseason on three occasions, including 1996, 1998 and 2000, winning the Turner Cup in the latter two seasons.