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It took three years but the American Hockey League has another Calder Cup champion, and again it’s the Carolina Hurricanes’ affiliate.
The Chicago Wolves closed out the 2022 Calder Cup finals on Saturday with a 4-0 victory over the Springfield Thunderbirds in Springfield, Massachusetts. Goalie Alex Lyon had 28 saves and Wolves forward Josh Leivo was named the playoffs MVP as Chicago won the best-of-seven series in five games.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Calder Cup was last awarded in 2019. The Charlotte Checkers, then the Canes’ AHL affiliate, won the championship that season.
On that Checkers team were such players as forwards Martin Necas and Steven Lorentz, defensemen Haydn Fleury and Jake Bean and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic. All spent time in the NHL with the Canes.
One link to both championship teams is Andrew Poturalski. The forward was the Checkers’ leading scorer in 2018-19 and had a team-leading 101 points in 71 games this season for the Wolves, then 23 points in the 18 playoff games.
Another tie: Wolves coach Ryan Warsofsky. An assistant coach on Mike Vellucci’s Checkers staff in 2019, he became at 34 the youngest coach to win a Calder Cup since Peter Laviolette in 1999 with the Providence Bruins.
Poturalski and Leivo, who had 15 goals and 29 points in the playoffs, played a couple of games for the Canes this season, as did center Jack Drury, another playoff star. Defenseman Jalen Chatfield had 16 games with the Canes.
Another was goalie Pyotr Kochetkov, who was reassigned to the Wolves after the Canes were knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Kochetkov and Lyon, who had two games with the Canes this season, split the goaltending in the Calder Cup playoffs – Lyon going 9-3 in 12 games and Kochetkov 5-1. Both had shutouts in the finals, Kochetkov in net for a 4-0 win in Game 3.
Chicago, which signed a three-year affiliation agreement with Carolina in September 2020, was 14-4 in the playoffs after winning 50 games and topping the AHL with 110 points in the regular season. The Wolves lost the opening game of the finals to Springfield in overtime, then swept the next four games.
“I think you have to play for each other and you have to want something bigger than yourself,” Warsofsky said after the game.