Western Conference Finals Preview: Gulls vs. WolvesMay 16, 2019
SERIES MATCHUP: The Gulls and Wolves meet for the first time in the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Western Conference Finals best-of-seven series will see one team advance to the Calder Cup Finals to face either the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes) or Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs). San Diego finished fourth in the Western Conference during the regular season, posting a 36-24-5-3 (.588%) record. Chicago completed the regular season atop the Central Division 44-22-6-4 record and .645 points percentage to rank second in the conference. San Diego appears in the Western Conference Finals for the first time in club history while this marks Chicago’s fifth trip, and first since 2008.
HOW WE GOT HERE: The Gulls advanced to the Western Conference Finals by eliminating the top two seeds in the Pacific Division. The Gulls defeated the San Jose Barracuda in four games (3-1) in the First Round, and then eliminated the Bakersfield Condors, the top seed in the Western Conference in the Pacific Division Finals in six games (4-2). San Diego will now face the second seed in the conference, with a chance to eliminate the top three teams in the West and the only other team ranked ahead of the Gulls in the regular-season. Chicago advanced to the Conference Finals after defeating Grand Rapids in five games (3-2) in the First Round, and then eliminated the Iowa Wild in the Central Division Finals in six game (4-2).
PLAYOFF HISTORY: San Diego has won the most playoff series among Pacific Division clubs since its inception in 2015 (4), surpassing the three by Texas (all in 2018), and now co-leads the Pacific Division with 15 all-time playoff wins (also Texas). With a 7-3 record this postseason, the Gulls have won the most playoff games in a single postseason in club history. San Diego’s trip to the Conference Finals is the third occasion an Anaheim Ducks primary affiliate has reached the Third Round (also Portland Pirates in 2006 and 2008).
GULLS-WOLVES: The two clubs did not meet in the 2018-19 regular season and have only faced off on two occasions in the AHL. The teams split their lone season series in 2017-18 winning their respective home games. In the first-ever matchup, Chicago earned a 3-1 victory at Allstate Arena on Dec. 6, 2017, while San Diego took a 2-1 contest 35 days later on Jan. 10, 2018 at Pechanga Arena San Diego with goals from Sam Carrick and Kevin Roy. Ten players remain on San Diego’s current roster that faced Chicago in 2017-18, including Boyle, Carrick, Kossila, Larsson, Megna, Roy, Sideroff, Thompson, Tropp and Welinski. Only Adam Cracknell has appeared in games for both clubs, collected 19-29=38 points in 50 games with Chicago from 2013-15.
- Adam Cracknell (6-6=12) and Sam Carrick (5-7=12) co-lead San Diego in postseason scoring and are set a new Gulls single-season playoff mark for points (12) to surpass the previous mark of 11 (Chris Mueller in 2016).
- Adam Cracknell also leads the Gulls in goals and ranks tied for second in assists. Among AHL postseason leaders, Cracknell is tied for second in scoring and goals. Cracknell led the Pacific Division Finals in scoring with 4-5=9 points. Cracknell recorded a five-game goal-scoring streak from Apr. 22-May 10 (6-4=10), setting a new Gulls postseason record for consecutive games with a goal and is the longest goal streak of the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs. Cracknell has points in seven of his last eight games, including a six-game point streak from Apr. 18-May 10 (6-5=11), tied for the longest point streak in Gulls postseason history.
- Sam Carrick leads San Diego in assists and ranks second in goals following six points in six games during the Pacific Division Finals (3-3=6). Carrick is San Diego’s all-time postseason leader in points (9-10=19), goals and assists.
- Sam Steel ranks second among AHL rookies in postseason scoring (4-6=10) and plus/minus (+7), and is tied for second in assists. Steel has recorded the most points by a rookie in Gulls playoff history.
- Max Comtois has recorded six points in the first six games to begin his AHL playoff career (3-3=6) and ranks third among AHL rookies with a +7 rating. He scored the game-winning goal in his first two career playoff games (Games 1 and 2 of the Pacific Division Finals), including the latest goal in Gulls playoff history in the fourth overtime of Game 1 (64:20). Comtois also recorded his first multi-point game of the playoffs in Game 6 of the Pacific Division Finals (1-1=2).
- Andy Welinski set a Gulls single-game postseason record with three assists to mark his first career multi-point and assist effort in Game 6 of the Pacific Division Finals. Among AHL defensemen, Welinski ranks tied for second in scoring (2-5=7) and assists
- Jacob Larsson leads AHL defenseman in plus/minus (+10) while ranking tied for third among all skaters.
GLASS WALL: Jeff Glass has posted a 6-3 record with a 2.25 GAA and .920 SV% in 10 appearances. Glass ranks tied for second in wins, is fourth in SV% and fifth in GAA among AHL leaders with more than one postseason appearance. In six career road games in the postseason, Glass has posted a 5-1 record, stopping a combined 219-of-230 shots to post a 1.40 GAA and .952 SV%. His lone road loss in the postseason came in double overtime of Game 5 of the Pacific Division Finals. The 34-year old veteran stopped 26-of-28 shots in regulation in addition to all 25 shots in overtime of the fifth-longest game in AHL history, Game 1 of the Pacific Division Finals at Bakersfield (124:20).
FAMILIAR PLACE: Head coach Dallas Eakins spent four seasons with the Chicago Wolves from 1998-2003. Eakins won both championships in both the IHL and AHL in the four seasons, helping the Wolves to a Turner Cup in 2000 and Calder Cup in 2002. Eakins appeared in 126 AHL games with Chicago, earning 6-27=33 points. Eakins will also coach against a former colleague, as Chicago’s head coach Rocky Thompson served as an assistant coach for the now Gulls bench boss during his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers in 2013-14. Wolves assistant coach Bob Nardella was a teammate of Eakins from 1999-02 in Chicago, while assistant coach Chris Dennis served as video coach for the Toronto Maples Leafs when Eakins was an assistant coach (2006-08).
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT: Chicago finished the regular season atop the Central Division and entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Forwards Curtis McKenzie (5-3=8), Tye MgGinn (3-5=8) and Tomas Hyka (2-6=8) 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 seven points (4G/3A) in 11 games after joining Chicago following the conclusion of his junior season with the Portland Winterhawks. After missing their First Round series, Daniel Carr has registered seven points (2G/5A) in six games, the only Wolves player to post a point-per game in the playoffs. Goaltender Oscar Dansk is 6-3 in nine appearances, posting a 2.28 GAA and .912 SV%. Through a league-high 11 games this postseason, Chicago has allowed the second-most goals (31) and lead the playoffs with 148 penalty minutes. The Wolves’ penalty kill has posted a 79.3 percent success rate, last among the four remaining postseason clubs. Chicago leads the postseason with nine power-play goals (seven in the First Round) and co-leads all clubs with two shorthanded goals.
WOLVES REGULAR SEASON LEADERS: In the regular season, the Wolves were led by Daniel Carr, the 2019 AHL Most Valuable Player, who posted 71 points (30G/41A) in 52 regular season games to rank tied for third among AHL leaders in scoring. Center T.J. Tynan matched Carr’s 71 points (12G/59A) in the regular season and led the AHL with 59 assists. Defenseman Zach Whitecloud led the AHL with a +39 rating while Dansk posted a 27-9-4 record with two shutouts, a 2.46 GAA and .913 SV% in 40 games. Dansk finished ranked tied for third in wins and eighth in GAA among AHL leaders.
FROM THE COACH: “They’re like Rocky Thompson is. They’ve got a work ethic, they play hard and the one thing that they are that Rocky is not, is that they can score. Some of the similarities are the same that we saw with San Jose and Bakersfield with their defensemen being very active on the rush and on the cycles. Again, they weren’t the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the Western Conference by accident. They had their playoff spot wrapped up weeks before the end of the season and there we were on the last weekend scraping our way in. We feel humbled to be here, we’re fortunate to be here and we’re going to do the best we can against a very good hockey team.”