SPRINGFIELD THUNDERBIRDS (0-0)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (0-0)
AN UNPRECEDENTED FATHER’S DAY
For the first time in American Hockey League and Chicago Wolves history, there is Calder Cup Playoffs hockey to enjoy on Father’s Day as the AHL and the Wolves have never played this late into June.
The 2022 Calder Cup Finals series features a classic matchup between the Eastern Conference champion Springfield Thunderbirds — representing the AHL’s home-base city in the Finals for the first time since 1991 — versus the Western Conference champion Wolves, who are living up to billing as the AHL’s top seed after earning the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy with the best regular-season record.
The Wolves also stand as the first AHL team since the 2009-10 Hershey Bears to earn their way into back-to-back Calder Cup Finals — though three years and 11 days have passed since the last Calder Cup Finals game.
While the venue for today’s Game 1 is the same as it was on June 8, 2019 — Allstate Arena in Rosemont — so much has changed. Take Ryan Warsofsky’s life, for example. In 2019, he was operating out of Allstate’s visiting dressing room as a Charlotte assistant coach when the Checkers celebrated their Calder Cup championship. He was married, but not yet a dad.
Today, Warsofsky wakes up as the proud father of 2-year-old Cal and six-week-old Lucy — and as the head coach of a Wolves team vying to claim the fifth league championship in the franchise’s 28-year history. He became a head coach with Charlotte in 2019, then took over in Chicago in September 2020 when the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes forged a partnership with the Wolves.
Then there’s Andrew Poturalski’s life. Three years and 11 days ago, Poturalski, too, found himself in the middle of Charlotte’s Calder Cup celebration as the Checkers’ alternate captain. He also earned the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs as he stacked up 12 goals and 11 assists in 18 games despite playing most of the way with a broken foot. Poturalski was engaged in 2019, but not yet a dad.
Today, Poturalski serves as the Wolves’ captain and became the first AHL player since 2010 to score 100 points in a season. Moreover, he became a dad on April 13 when he and his wife, Haley, welcomed their son Morrison into the world. Not only does his first Father’s Day get to start and end with the two people he loves most, the captain gets the chance to lead his teammates one win closer to their season-long goal.
“We’ve been successful all year doing the things that we do,” Poturalski said. “There’s no reason to change anything up. We’re a good team when we do what we do together and play hard and fast and outwork our opponents. I’d say (we’re) super-focused and locked-in. I’d say everyone’s really excited and this is what we’ve worked for — to be in a spot like this.”
WE ARE THE WOLVES
For the eighth time in the organization’s 28-season history, the Wolves have earned their way into the league finals. Chicago has hoisted the Cup four times (1998 Turner, 2000 Turner, 2002 Calder and 2008 Calder) and finished as runnerup three times (2001 Turner, 2005 Calder and 2019 Calder).
When the Wolves have enjoyed home-ice advantage in the Finals, as they do in this series, they have won the Cup three times and lost just once.
LAST TWO GAMES
- After 48 minutes, 35 seconds of intense, scoreless hockey, rookie forward Ivan Lodnia scored the opening goal to spark the Wolves to the Game 6 win that finished the Western Conference Finals.
- Linemates Spencer Smallman and Jamieson Rees set up Lodnia’s game-winner, then captain Andrew Poturalski added a breakaway and Josh Leivo an empty-netter in the final 80 seconds.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov rejected 28 shots to earn his first shutout in North America.
- Suburban Chicago native Connor Mackey — son of former Wolves forward David Mackey — scored 14:27 into overtime to give Stockton the Game 5 victory in California.
- Center Spencer Smallman gave the Wolves the lead with a shorthanded goal while Richard Panik forged a 2-2 tie with his third-period power-play tally.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon registered 32 saves in 74-plus minutes.
By the numbers
1: One of the primary reasons the Chicago Wolves worked their way past the Stockton Heat in six games during the Western Conference Finals? The Wolves’ penalty-kill units snuffed out 27 of Stockton’s 28 power-play opportunities. “It’s the guys buying in,” said Wolves defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald, one of the PK stalwarts. “Blocking shots. Getting the puck 200 feet. Special teams runs the playoffs. The boys are clicking right now, so hopefully we can bring that into this series.” The Wolves have snuffed out 86.4 percent of opponents’ power plays during the postseason after stopping 83.2 percent in the regular season. Both ranked fifth in the AHL.
2: Conversely, Springfield found a way to get through the Eastern Conference Finals against Laval despite converting just 2 of 32 power-play chances in their seven games. That was atypical for the Thunderbirds, though, as they scored on 11 of 29 power plays in their first two playoff series (37.9 percent) and 20.3 percent of their power plays during the regular season.
4: Head coach Ryan Warsofsky and captain Andrew Poturalski aren’t the only people in the Wolves organization who won the 2019 Calder Cup as part of the Charlotte Checkers. Defenseman Jesper Sellgren came over from Sweden during the second round of the playoffs and jumped right into the Checkers lineup — finishing with 3 goals and 1 assist in 11 games. Forward Stelio Mattheos also notched 3 goals and 1 assist, albeit in 14 Calder Cup Playoff games. Center Spencer Smallman was on Charlotte’s roster, but did not participate in the postseason.
4.15: After finishing the regular season as the AHL’s No. 4 scoring team with 3.43 goals per game, the Wolves have kicked it up a notch during the postseason and pace the AHL with 4.15 goals per game. Chicago has accomplished it with a balanced effort as 17 of its 20 skaters have scored at least one goal. The third and fourth lines have accounted for 10 goals and the defensemen have notched six. Springfield, meanwhile, stands tied for second in postseason scoring with 4.0 goals per game.
6: The Wolves have relied on the same six defensemen for every postseason game: Jalen Chatfield, Cavan Fitzgerald, Josh Jacobs, Joey Keane, Max Lajoie and Jesper Sellgren. Collectively, they have contributed 6 goals, 23 assists and a +43 plus/minus rating. Keane, who quarterbacks the power play, leads in points with 7 assists while Lajoie has produced 3 goals and 3 assists in 13 games after posting 4 goals in 60 regular-season appearances.
11: Wolves forward Josh Leivo leads all AHL skaters in postseason goals (11) and points (20). The 29-year-old Ontario native has scored at least 1 point in 12 of the Wolves’ 13 Calder Cup Playoff games — highlighted by his hat trick in Game 4 to close out the Central Division Finals at Milwaukee and his game-winning goal with 17 seconds left in hte Wolves’ Game 2 win over Stockton in the Western Conference Finals.
15: Pyotr Kochetkov became the 15th goaltender in Wolves history to register a postseason shutout — and the first rookie to do so since Ondrej Pavelec on May 28, 2008 — when he stopped all 28 shots he saw during the clinching Game 6 Tuesday night. Kochetkov joined the club that includes Jake Allen, Stephane Beauregard, Fred Brathwaite, Michael Garnett, Kari Lehtonen, Alex Lyon, Drew MacIntyre, Peter Mannino, Norm Maracle, Pasi Nurminen, Pavelec, Richard Shulmistra, Andrei Trefilov and Wendell Young. Lyon joined the club when he blanked Stockton in Game 3 on June 8 in California. Lyon and Kochetkov took turns in net during the Western Conference Finals after Lyon handled the first two rounds,
423: Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 727 players have suited up for Chicago. When 22-year-old goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov made his NHL debut for the Carolina Hurricanes on April 23, he became the 423rd Wolves player to play in the NHL. That makes 58.2 percent of all Wolves players — and 70 percent of all Wolves goalies (49 of 70).
THE CALDER CUP FINALS SCHEDULE
|Game 1||Sunday, June 19||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||Game 1|
|Game 2||Monday, June 20||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 2|
|Game 3||Wednesday, June 22||MassMutual Center||6 p.m.|
|Game 4||Friday, June 24||MassMutual Center||6 p.m.|
|Game 5*||Saturday, June 25||MassMutual Center||6 p.m.|
|Game 6*||Tuesday, June 28||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 6|
|Game 7*||Wednesday, June 29||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 7|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.