CHICAGO WOLVES (1-0) AT CHARLOTTE CHECKERS (0-1)
A GAME 1 OVERTIME WIN…AGAIN
In Game 1 of the Central Division Finals against Iowa, the Wolves fell behind 2-1 before rallying for a 3-2 overtime win at Allstate Arena. In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against San Diego, the Wolves fell behind 4-3 before rallying for a 5-4 overtime win at Allstate Arena.
In Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals against Charlotte Saturday night, the Wolves dug a deeper hole for themselves and did so on the road — yet they still found a way to rally for the overtime victory. Chicago trailed 3-1 after one period, pulled even 5.7 seconds before the end of the second period and then claimed a 4-3 victory when veteran forward Stefan Matteau scored 5:30 into overtime at Bojangles’ Coliseum.
To put this comeback into perspective, the Wolves had played 34 games in their six previous Finals appearances between the International Hockey League’s Turner Cup and the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup. Never before had the Wolves rallied from more than a one-goal deficit to earn a Finals victory.
“We have a confident group and we have a hard-working group and one of (head coach) Rocky (Thompson’s) go-to sayings is the game always rewards those who are honest to it,” Matteau said. “That’s what we have been throughout the playoffs and hopefully it keeps going.”
Here’s another fun fact: Prior to Saturday night’s game, the Wolves had won four Game 1s in the Finals (1998, 2000, 2002, 2008) and lost two Game 1s (2001, 2005). Each time, whatever the Wolves did in Game 1 turned out to be exactly how they fared for the series.
MATTEAU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU!
When Stefan Matteau was three months old, his father, Stephane, scored a goal for the ages when he knocked home a wraparound in double overtime for the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Final. The goal became even more immortal for Howie Rose’s “Matteau! Matteau! Matteau! Stephane Matteau!” call.
Stefan Matteau has a nice hockey pedigree as well — becoming the New Jersey Devils’ first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and spending parts of four seasons in the NHL. But he earned a “Like father, like son” call from Wolves play-by-play man Jason Shaver after scoring the overtime winner Saturday night. Matteau also scored in the first period for his first multi-goal postseason performance as a professional.
“You’ve seen in the last five or six games, I’ve moved him up the lineup,” said head coach Rocky Thompson. “He’s physical. He’s very hard to play against. He’s really fast. He manages pucks well when he gets in on the forecheck. He’s got an excellent release. His mentality is ‘shoot more, but keep the game simple.’ ”
Midway through the Western Conference Finals against San Diego, Matteau was teamed with center Gage Quinney and right wing Keegan Kolesar — giving the Wolves two physical presences flanking a playmaker.
“All three of us, we definitely feed off each other,” Matteau said. “Me and ‘Koley,’ we get in there on the forecheck and Quinney’s such a skilled player, he’ll pick up pucks and make plays. So I think it’s a good line.”
THE FINALS SO FAR…
- Forward Stefan Matteau scored 5:30 into overtime — his second goal of the night — to cap the Wolves’ rally and earn the Game 1 win at Bojangles’ Coliseum.
- The Wolves trailed 3-1 after one period, but defenseman Zac Leslie scored his first goal of the postseason and rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud tied it with 5.7 seconds left in the second.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 35 saves and earned his fourth OT win of the playoffs.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Chicago Wolves general manager Wendell Young is the only person in franchise history to win Cups as a player (1998, 2000) and a coach (2008), but former teammate Bob Nardella has a chance to join the club. Nardella won Turner Cups in 1998 and 2000 and the Calder Cup in 2002 as a high-scoring defenseman (he ranks fourth in Wolves postseason history with 61 points). Now he’s in his second season behind the bench as one of Rocky Thompson’s assistants. In addition to working with the forwards, he handles the pre-scouts of each team.
3: The Wolves boast three players with prior Calder Cup Finals experience: forwards Tye McGinn, Curtis McKenzie and T.J. Tynan. McGinn produced 1 goal and 3 assists for the Syracuse Crunch in the 2017 Calder Cup Finals won by the Grand Rapids Griffins in six games. Tynan posted 1 assist in the 2016 Calder Cup Finals for the Lake Erie Monsters as they swept the Hershey Bears. McKenzie earned his Calder Cup championship ring during his rookie year in 2014 when the Texas Stars defeated the St. John’s IceCaps in five games. He delivered 1 goal and 4 assists in that series. Last year, McKenzie captained the Texas Stars squad that went seven games with the eventual champion Toronto Marlies. McKenzie notched a series-leading 5 goals with 1 assist.
4: Left wing Daniel Carr became the fourth Wolves player in the last 13 seasons to earn the AHL’s Most Valuable Player honor. He received the Les Cunningham Award prior to Game 1 of the Central Division Semifinals against the Grand Rapids Griffins on April 19 and joined Kenny Agostino (2016-17), Jason Krog (2007-08) and Darren Haydar (2006-07) in this exclusive club. Hershey is the only other AHL team to have more than one MVP since the Wolves joined the league prior to the 2001-02 season.
17: When defenseman Zac Leslie scored during the second period Saturday night to pull the Wolves within 3-2, he became the 17th Wolves player to produce a goal during this postseason. To put that into some perspective, the 2008 Calder Cup champions boasted 18 players who scored postseason goals, the 2002 Calder Cup champs had 17 scorers and the 1998 and 2000 Turner Cup champs each had 14 players chime in with goals. None of the Wolves’ league champions, however, had their goaltender contribute a goal the way that Max Lagace did in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. In fact, Lagace was the first goalie in Wolves history to score.
22: When the Wolves win Game 1 of a postseason series, good things nearly always ensue. When the Wolves defeated the San Diego Gulls in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals — then went on to take the series in six games — it marked the 22nd consecutive time that Chicago has taken Game 1 and gone on to take the series as well. The streak began in 1998 when the Wolves swept Manitoba in the IHL’s Western Conference Quarterfinal. The Wolves’ only loss when winning Game 1 came vs. Las Vegas in the 1996 Western Conference Semifinal.
42: Goaltender Oscar Dansk needed to post just one stop in overtime Saturday night before Stefan Matteau came through with the game-winner. That was a far lighter workload than in the Wolves’ three previous overtime wins this postseason. In Game 1 of the Central Division Finals vs. Iowa, Dansk made 10 saves. In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals vs. San Diego, Dansk notched 11 saves. And in Game 4’s double-overtime win of the Western Conference Finals, Dansk came through with 20 saves in 26 minutes. For those scoring at home, that’s 42 saves on 42 shots during overtime. The Wolves (4-0) and Milwaukee (1-0) are the only teams during this postseason who are undefeated in overtime. Charlotte fell to 1-2 with Saturday’s loss — and all three of those games have come in the Checkers’ last four outings.
358: If you’ve suited up for the Wolves, chances are better than 50/50 that you’ve played in the National Hockey League or are on your way. Of the 623 players who have suited up for the Wolves over 25 seasons, 358 also have competed in the NHL. That 57.5 percent overall success rate is even higher among goaltenders. Of the 55 players who’ve tended the net for the Wolves over the years — starting with original goaltenders Ray LeBlanc and Wendell Young and continuing through current Wolves Oscar Dansk and Max Lagace — 38 boast NHL experience (69.1 percent).
CALDER CUP FINALS SCHEDULE
|Game 1||Wolves 4, Checkers 3 (OT)||Bojangles’ Coliseum|
|Game 2||Sunday, June 2||Bojangles’ Coliseum||5 p.m.||Watch|
|Game 3||Wednesday, June 5||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Game 4||Thursday, June 6||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Game 5*||Saturday, June 8||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Game 6*||Thursday, June 13||Bojangles’ Coliseum||6 p.m.||Watch|
|Game 7*||Friday, June 14||Bojangles’ Coliseum||6 p.m.||Watch|