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Wolves advance to Calder Cup Finals

Chicago 3 | San Diego 1
McKenzie and Kolesar strike 19 seconds apart in the third to break scoreless deadlock

The Chicago Wolves are headed to the Calder Cup Finals for the first time since 2008 after earning a 3-1 victory over the San Diego Gulls in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals on Monday night at Allstate Arena.

After the teams played scoreless hockey for 50-plus minutes, forward Curtis McKenzie scored a pair of goals while forward Keegan Kolesar added another for Chicago (11-6).

The Wolves received the Robert W. Clarke Trophy that goes to the American Hockey League’s Western Conference champion for the fourth time. Oscar Dansk (9-5) saved 29 shots to help the Wolves best the Gulls 4-2 in the best-of-seven series.

The Wolves and the Charlotte Checkers open the 2019 Calder Cup Finals on Saturday in Charlotte. The Wolves host Games 3-5 on June 5, 6 and 8 at Allstate Arena.

“We’re really excited,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “It’s a lot of hard work to get to this point. We’ll enjoy it tonight and get right back to work tomorrow.”

Sam Carrick scored the lone goal for San Diego (9-7) while netminder Kevin Boyle (3-3) recorded 25 saves.

After two scoreless periods, McKenzie finally broke through at the 12:28 mark of the third period, tipping a shot from defenseman Nic Hague over Boyle’s blocker to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead.

Just 19 seconds later, Kolesar tipped a blast from defenseman Griffin Reinhart between Boyle’s pads at 12:47, putting the Wolves up 2-0.

“It’s another game we just found a way to get through,” said McKenzie, who captained the Texas Stars to the 2018 Calder Cup Finals. “For a lot of the game, we probably weren’t the better team. But Oscar was so good in the net for us. And, again, we found a way to get through – which has been our season all along.”

Carrick tallied a goal on the power play — slipping a rebound around Dansk’s pad at the 14:51 mark to put the Gulls within 2-1 — but McKenzie responded at 16:55 to seal the 3-1 victory. He skated a loose puck in on Boyle before shooting off the post and into the back of the net.

The Wolves face the Eastern Conference champion Checkers in the 2019 Calder Cup Finals that begin Saturday night at Bojangles’ Coliseum. Chicago hosts Games 3, 4 and 5 on June 5, 6 and 8 at Allstate Arena. All three home games will begin at 7 p.m.