Chicago Wolves forward Stefan Matteau scored two goals, including the overtime game-winner, to lift the Wolves 4-3 over the Charlotte Checkers in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals on Saturday night at Bojangles’ Coliseum.
Defensemen Zac Leslie and Zach Whitecloud also scored goals for Chicago (12-6) while defenseman Griffin Reinhart posted two assists. Goaltender Oscar Dansk (10-5) made 35 saves to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Matteau scored the winner 5:30 into the extra session after defenseman Nic Hague dumped the puck into the Checkers zone and it ricocheted off an official and right to Matteau along the left half-wall. Matteau stepped toward the net before sending a shot off goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic’s glove and into the net.\
“It was a weird feeling,” Matteau said. “I think (the puck) hit the ref or something and we kept it in. It seemed like everybody lost track of it and it fell right in front of me, so I just grabbed it, saw I had space, took a couple steps and luckily it squeaked by.”
The Wolves improved to 4-0 in overtime during the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs – and won Game 1 in overtime for the third straight series.
Trevor Carrick, Andrew Poturalski and Martin Necas scored for Charlotte (11-4) while goaltender Nedeljkovic (8-4) made 32 saves.
The Checkers got on the board early in the first period on the man-advantage when Carrick struck at 2:19 while forward Keegan Kolesar was sitting for a hooking infraction.
Matteau tied the game at 5:54 with his first of the night, tipping a shot from defenseman Reinhart past Nedeljkovic to make it a 1-1 game.
McKeown put the Checkers back on top at 15:47 before Poturalski scored at 19:03 to send the Wolves into the first intermission trailing 3-1.
“We had a bit of a rough start,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “And then we weathered the storm and got into our game and then we started to play good. The game had these ebbs and flows in it. It was a really good hockey game. It certainly could have gone either way and we were fortunate.”
The Wolves came back strong for the second period and tallied a pair of back-half goals to make it a 3-3 game after 40 minutes.
Leslie capitalized at 11:27 from the right circle, receiving a pass from forward Daniel Carr and rifling it past Nedeljkovic to put the Wolves within one goal.
In the final seconds of the second period, Whitecloud sent a rocket from the point through traffic and past Nedeljkovic to make it 3-3 at the 19:54 mark.
The Wolves and Checkers meet for Game 2 at 5 p.m. Sunday, then the Wolves host the next three contests at Allstate Arena starting with Game 3 Wednesday night.