SAN DIEGO – Friday night’s match in San Diego was going to be pivotal no matter who won – the San Diego Gulls or the Chicago Wolves. If the Gulls won, they would have a 3-1 series lead headed into their final home game of the series Saturday night, while the Wolves looked to force a game six by tying the series at two games apiece.
Where game three was a bit of a struggle for the Wolves, game four was all but. The opening frame ended in a scoreless tie, but Rocky Thompson’s team jumped out to a 15-9 shots on goal advantage in the first 20 minutes. This was a significant improvement over the 12-6 SOG deficit they found themselves in after 20 of game three.
It would be Griffin Reinhart of all players – a stay at home defenseman in general – who would get the visitors on the board first in the second period when he deftly slide the puck past netminder Kevin Boyle, who should have seen it the whole way through and made the stop. Instead, it read 1-0 Chicago at 4:17 of the second.
Chicago continued to throw everything it could at Boyle during the second frame and the period would end just 1-0 in its favor. Boyle stopped 30 of 31 to this point, and his team would only register 12 SOG the other way in the opening 40. If it were not for the stellar play of the goaltender, the score should have read 4-0 Chicago already.
One bright spot for the Gulls thus far was the penalty kill. For what seems like the umpteenth time this series, they were able to kill off yet another power-play opportunity to the Wolves in the second pretty handily.
Chicago entered the final frame of regulation with its foot on the pedal yet again, but it would be San Diego who tied the score at 3:36 of the frame when Justin Kloos was left wide open by Brooks Macek and he was able to put the puck past netminder Oscar Dansk to tie the game at one.
Yet another Gulls game this season needed extra time as the final buzzer sounded on regulation with a 1-1 tie. To this point, Boyle had made 35 saves.
The Wolves were gift-wrapped the chance to end things early in the first overtime period when T.J. Tynan was high-sticked in the face, but yet again, the Wolves power play was ineffective. To this extent, the successful kill seemed to fuel the Gulls who went on to register 17 shots in the first overtime period but were stoned repeatedly by the elevated play of Dansk.
A second overtime was needed and the clock inched closer to 1 a.m. Central time. With this period, the game was now the longest playoff game at home in San Diego Gulls history – most of their extra-time had taken place on the road.
As time wore, so did the players and the ice began to slowly open up more and more. At 6:01 of the fifth frame of the game, Daniel Carr would prove the overtime hero when he took advantage of the space to beat Boyle on Chicago’s 44th shot of the game.
With the goal, Carr and the Wolves evened the Western Conference Final at two games apiece, ensuring there would be at least six needed for a series winner. Game five is a quick turnaround, set for a 9 p.m. Central time puck drop Saturday night. It will be interesting to see if either team makes a lineup change after the extended play and shortened recovery period – especially if the Wolves feel the need to add a piece to their power play to help things turn around a bit there.
Dansk had maybe the biggest transformation between games, as he turned game four into a goaltending battle and Boyle blinked first.