A young roster, coupled with a small sample size of postseason experience, made it unclear how the San Jose Barracuda would respond heading into its playoff run.
But just like their regular season, where they finished atop the Western Conference standings despite the odds being stacked against them, the Barracuda continue to find ways to succeed.
The same can be said of forward Ryan Carpenter, who helped his team stave off elimination by scoring the overtime, game-winning, shorthanded goal in Round 1 versus the Stockton Heat.
"[Barclay] Goodrow won the puck and I was right down the slot, so I just tried shooting it quick and the right side was open," he said. "It was just an unreal feeling when it went it."
Centering a line that has produced 19 points in seven games this postseason, Carpenter accounts for 10 of those points alone (tied for the league-lead) and is currently riding a three-game point streak.
"I wish we had more of him," Head Coach Roy Sommer laughed. "He defies all odds every game."
Yet in the role of an alternate captain, his impact hasn't been felt exclusively on the scoresheet. Carpenter has proven he is far more than just an offensive, one-trick pony. His ability to produce in all three zone has been an inspiration to his teammates.
"He's playing a complete game," Captain John McCarthy said. "He's bringing a lot of different things to the team and establishing himself as a leader in the locker room and on the ice as well."
No stranger to hard work, Carpenter found himself undrafted after college, but was signed as a free agent with San Jose in March 2014.
Carpenter then spent the next three seasons with the Sharks minor league affiliate, the Worcester Sharks and the Barracuda, where in 2015-16 he experienced a breakout season and made his argument to stay a part of the club by ending the regular season with a career-best and team-leading 55 points.
"He's one of those guys who came out of nowhere," Sommer said.
The Sharks rewarded him with a one-year extension this past July and he hasn't looked back, even appearing in a Sharks uniform during an extended stint this season.
During his 11 games played with the Sharks, Carpenter netted his first career NHL goal, amassed four points and boasted a plus-five rating.
More importantly, his time in a NHL dressing room gave him the confidence boost he needed, as the Barracuda primed themselves to make a run at the AHL's top honor.
"You see how detailed and talented they are and how hard they work [in the NHL]," Carpenter said. "When you come back down to the Barracuda, you keep that mindset."
Although Carpenter was reassigned to the Barracuda in mid-February, Coach Sommer doesn't think it will be his last appearance in an NHL sweater.
"It wasn't like he got sent down because he wasn't doing his job," Sommer said. "It was a matter of guys coming back who were healthy with NHL deals.
"I'd want him on the Sharks next year. I think he can definitely play in the NHL."
While Carpenter's NHL experience is added to an already impressive career resume, his focus is on helping his team push past the San Diego Gulls in Round 2.
"We have a lot of offense and we're a confident group," he said. "We need to stay in the moment and play in a 60-minute game."
It's also a chance for the Barracuda to show they can handle adversity as they head south to San Diego for the next three games away from the friendly confines of SAP Center in a series tied at one. And there's always a chance for overtime heroics like Carpenter recently showed.
"Anything can happen in the playoffs," he said.