The Chicago Wolves’ 25th anniversary season came to a close Saturday night at Allstate Arena as the Charlotte Checkers posted a 5-3 victory in Game 5 to clinch the Calder Cup.
The teams exchanged four goals in a wild final 3:06 as the Wolves twice pulled within one, but the Checkers responded both times with an empty-net goal.
Forwards Brooks Macek, Gage Quinney and Cody Glass scored for the Wolves (12-10), who played without injured AHL MVP Daniel Carr for the second game in a row. Wolves goaltender Oscar Dansk (10-9) posted 27 saves while Charlotte’s Alex Nedeljkovic (10-4) stopped 26 shots.
“What I’m proud of most, though, is I thought our team played the best that we possibly could have,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “And that’s what I said to our players: ‘You shouldn’t be sad. I know it’s tough when you don’t win championships, but you shouldn’t be sad when that’s all you have. You did everything you could. I’m proud of that.’ ”
“I think everybody in the room is proud of themselves – and they should be,” said Wolves alternate captain Curtis McKenzie. “It was a heck of a year. It was such a fun group this year and guys worked so hard and just grinded the whole way. I think everybody should be very happy. As much as it stings, the guys had a good year.”
Charlotte (15-4) took the lead just 1:31 into the game as Aleksi Saarela spied Andrew Poturalski flying down the right side and fed him for a quick blast. The Checkers pushed it to 2-0 at 8:25 of the second when Morgan Geekie intercepted a clearing attempt and knocked it home from point-blank range.
Macek gave the Wolves a boost with 25 seconds left in the second period when his leg redirected Tomas Hyka’s one-timer from the slot.
The Wolves peppered Nedeljkovic early in the third period in search of the equalizer, but defenseman Trevor Carrick gave Charlotte some breathing room with a goal at 6:15.
Thompson pulled Dansk with 3:16 left and the Wolves needed just 10 seconds to take advantage of the extra attacker as Quinney scored. Dansk was pulled again, but Poturalski fired home an empty-netter with 1:47 to play. Dansk was removed again and Glass scored with 38.1 seconds to go to cut the margin to 4-3.
Dansk came out a fourth time, but Zach Nastasiuk clinched it with an empty-netter with 16 seconds to go.
The Wolves will host their 2019-20 opener in early October at Allstate Arena.