Just six hours from his hometown of Duluth, Andy Welinski expected to play before friends and family Saturday when his San Diego Gulls took on the Iowa Wild in Des Moines.
Welinski was also supposed to square off against a former teammate at Minnesota Duluth in Carson Soucy, a rookie defenseman with the Wild.
The Anaheim Ducks had other plans, however.
Welinski, the former standout defenseman for the Bulldogs and Duluth East Greyhounds, was hailed back to California late Friday night and officially called up to the Ducks for practice on Monday morning. He made his NHL debut Monday night and registered an assist in the Ducks' 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at Honda Center in Anaheim.
Welinski told reporters in Anaheim after the Monday morning practice the change of plans over the weekend created a tough but exciting late-night phone call to his father, Mark, and mother, Julie.
"Calling my parents and waking them up out of bed was probably a call that they are ... willing to forgive me for," Welinski said. "It's definitely exciting. I'm just kind of going through the process as it develops."
Welinski's first NHL point came 1:52 into the third period. He corralled a pass that was heading out of the zone with his backhand and slid the puck to Logan Shaw in the slot for a wrister that gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead.
The 24-year-old Duluthian who played his youth hockey with the Glen Avon Hockey Club is in his second full professional season since signing a two-year deal with the Ducks after captaining the Bulldogs as a senior in 2015-16. He was acquired by the Ducks in the third round of the 2011 draft, going 83rd overall, and will be a restricted free agent this summer.
Monday was Welinski's first NHL call up. He's played in 89 games with the franchise's top minor league affiliate in the American Hockey League, posting 12 goals and 35 assists. His six goals and 11 assists in 21 games this season put him fifth among AHL defensemen in scoring.
In an interview Friday morning with the News Tribune in Des Moines following a Gulls practice, Welinski said he attributes his scoring push to the Gulls' success on the power play.
It also helped that he's a more confident and comfortable player at the pro level. That has allowed him to just go out and play without overthinking everything on the ice, Welinski said.
"I don't want to say it's come easier," he said, "but it feels more natural and that's something that allows you to get set in a groove."
Welinski said the biggest adjustment for him from the college to professional level is how tight team's systems are in the pros compared to college. Things were a little looser at UMD. In the AHL, things are much more controlled, he said
"It's easy to do too much at this level," Welinski said. "You need to stick within your system. The more you watch it, the more you can see how important it is sticking to your system and being on the same page as your teammates."