The season is in jeopardy for the Wolves and the AHL as a whole. Because of concerns over coronavirus, the schedule has been suspended, and it’s anybody’s guess when the Wolves will take the ice again.
Although it’s trivial in comparison to what’s going on elsewhere, the interruption short-circuits a breakthrough season for forward Gage Quinney.
When he made his NHL debut Feb. 22 with the Golden Knights, Quinney became the first Nevada-born player to play in hockey’s top league. In three games for his hometown team, Quinney acquitted himself well, picking up an assist and averaging almost 10 minutes of ice time.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “I just learned they’re all really good. Everything is perfect all the time, and to make all the right plays and bringing that down here . . . that’s what I try to do.”
After returning to the Wolves on March 1, Quinney continued the form that got him the NHL chance.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “These guys are my best friends. So being able to come back and play, it’s just as good. I’m excited for the playoff push, and we’ve got to get it going.”
That playoff push may or may not continue now, but Quinney was certainly doing his part to help the Wolves try to solidify a spot in the postseason. In three games, he had two goals and an assist during an especially difficult time of NHL call-ups and roster issues. He returned to his usual role of playing in all situations and gave the Wolves another reason to feel optimistic about the remainder of the season.
“Really carrying us offensively,” coach Rocky Thompson said. “He’s stepping up. It’s required of him, and that’s what I love, is you do your best when your best is required. He’s doing that, and he’s proving that he can take that next step, in my opinion.”
The call-up to Vegas last month wasn’t just a way for the Golden Knights to generate positive headlines. Quinney had 14 goals and 18 assists at the time of his promotion and caught the eye of the parent team with the same traits that always bring praise from Thompson.
“We had a chance with the game tonight to reward someone, and he was the player we thought deserved it,” Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on the night of Quinney’s debut. “Happy for Gage, excited for his family. It’s a neat story with him being Nevada-born, and yet it’s not why this is playing out like it did. He’s here tonight because he’s earned the opportunity.”
Because of hockey’s growth in the Las Vegas area, Quinney likely isn’t the last native player to skate in the NHL. But even though he’s now a part of sports history for his home state, he isn’t thinking about that too much anymore.
“Maybe the first game because of all the questions I had to answer,” he said. “The goal is to play in the NHL. All of that stuff doesn’t really cross my mind.”