The San Diego Gulls never relinquished an early lead Saturday and beat the Chicago Wolves 3-0 to even the best-of-seven series in the American Hockey League’s Western Conference finals.
Game 3 of the series will be played at home Wednesday night at Pechanga Arena.
“We can’t wait to get back in front of our own fans, it gives us such a boost. These games here, they’re games you just want to get through and you want to win. The games at home, you want to enjoy it,” said Gulls center Sam Carrick of Saturday’s win.
Kevin Boyle stopped all 29 shots as the Gulls killed all four of Chicago’s power-play opportunities. The team got goals from Carrick in the first period and Jack Kopacka in the second at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.
Sam Steel added an empty-net goal with one minute, 18 seconds to play.
“Of the two games, I actually thought we played better last night than we did tonight,” Gulls coach Dallas Eakins said, referring to Friday’s 5-4 loss, “but Kevin Boyle came in and just gave us a hell of a game as did our penalty killers. Our sticks down around that net were excellent.”
Eakins had said he would make “a couple of minor adjustments” in Game 2 after the Gulls overtime loss in Game 1.
“I thought we were a little slow coming out of the gate, getting our feet underneath us with the travel and the time change,” Eakins said. “I thought we played well in spurts. The times we got ourselves into trouble is when we get hemmed in our own zone, which only happened a couple of times.”
Boyle was making his first appearance since May 4 when he stopped 19 of 20 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Bakersfield Condors in Game 2 of the Pacific Division finals. Boyle left with 11:09 to play after being hit in the back of head by a knee of an opposing player.
“We had a good feeling about him going into the game,” Carrick said. “We knew he was ready, we knew he was going to be good to go and he played great tonight for us. He just gives us so much confidence. When we have a guy like him back there, when he’s feeling it, there’s not many goalies that are better than him.”
Carrick opened the scoring 6:56 into the first period, putting in a rebound of a shot by Adam Cracknell for his sixth goal of the 2019 Calder Cup playoffs. Maxime Comtois was also credited with an assist.
“We dumped it in, got the puck back, took it to the net and I just went backdoor and the puck came to me,” Carrick said. “I had the easy job of putting it in the net and my two linemates did all the work. It was a good goal and I think it gave our team a little bit of confidence.”
The Gulls are 4-0 when scoring first in the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs.
In his first appearance since April 24, Kopacka scored his first goal in six playoff games as a professional, putting in a rebound of his own shot 2:08 into the second period.
The crowd at Allstate Arena was announced at 5,435.
Despite the win, the Gulls, the Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate, were outshot, 29-23, and failed to score on all three of their power-play opportunities.
Oscar Dansk made 20 saves for the Wolves, the Vegas Golden Knights AHL affiliate. He made 40 saves Friday night.
“I liked how we played tonight,” Chicago coach Rocky Thompson said. “We had our moments for sure, which was encouraging for me. This is the way we’ve got to play. We had the puck a lot tonight, which is good. We were executing a game plan that will give us a chance to have success.”
– City News Service and staff reports
Updated 11 p.m. Saturday May 18, 2019.
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