The Calder Cup Finals; the best of seven game series sees the Charlotte Checkers face the Chicago Wolves. It is sure to be a great matchup. The series is currently tied 1-1 but let’s take a look at the teams and the overall series.
The Checkers are the affiliate team of the Carolina Hurricanes. The Checkers have never won a Calder Cup. Checkers dispatched the reigning champions and strong competition in the previous round; beating the Toronto Marlies 4-2 in that series. Charlotte’s hottest team ever saw a 4-3 win during second overtime to secure their place in the finals with home-ice advantage.
The Atlantic Division winners looked strong throughout the series, but a controversial final goal sealed the deal for them. Steven Lorentz fired in a shot which Kaskisuo sent high before seemingly touching the netting. However, even with Checkers players suggesting a net call, all officials let the play continue. Checkers almost immediately recovered possession in the neutral zone. What followed was two quick shots on goal before, Morgan Geekie was handed the rebound for a tap in.
Going into game six Checkers were forced to change there style of play. The team was seeing a number of injuries and illnesses while also returning home to a much warmer climate.
Temperatures in the Bojangles Coliseum were increasing and the ice notably softening; Charlotte is almost on the border with South Carolina and ambient temperatures topped 90’F. Playoff hockey saw big attendance increases which were also contributed to ramping up the rink temperatures. Coach Mike Vellucci though, had the right idea when told his players to dump the puck into the offensive zone and “go crashing in there”.
Can They Do It?
Keep an eye on the tactics employed by Vellucci. The Checkers will again change things up as they look to adjust and adapted to present challenges. Lorentz and Geekie both continue to play fantastically as line-mates. Each contributing to a good tally of goals. The team put twenty-two goals past the Marlies in the previous six-game series. The Checkers also had an incredibly strong penalty-kill unit and the team also looked strong shorthanded. This may further unsettle the Wolves. As it stands by the time of writing, the series is tied 1-1.
The affiliate team of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, Wolves have previously won championships in 2002 and again in 2008. The Wolves saw off the San Diego Gulls in a 4-2 series win with a 3-1 regulation win in game six.
Goaltending proved to be the deciding factor in the six-game series against the Gulls. Oscar Dansk has iced this season on multiple occasions in the NHL for the Golden Knights, just as he did for the Wolves. During the final game of the series, he faced thirty shots and stopped twenty-nine of them. Dansk goes into the finals with a .921 save percentage through the Calder Cup playoffs thus far.
Forward Curtis McKenzie continues to play well scoring two goals in game six. Keegan Kolesar netted what would prove to be the series winner just nineteen seconds after McKenzie’ second goal. Kolesar also scored the series winner in the opening round against Grand Rapids. Both look strong heading into the Calder Cup.
Can They Do It?
This is the first time the Wolves have reached the finals in 11 years and they want to prove a point. The Wolves have incredibly strong goaltending and this could prove to be key against the strong first line of the Checkers. Oscar Dansk will no doubt call on his wealth of experience and play a pivotal role in the series.
Wolves have a solid team with a winning balance of youth and experience. The team is excited and well prepared for the Calder Cup.
*Wolves were the former affiliate team of the NHL Atlanta Thrashers from 2001-11. 2011 Saw the Thrashers move to Winnipeg and re-brand as the Winnipeg Jets and the Wolves started as the Vancouver Cannucks affiliate team for two seasons. They are now the AHL affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Which Team Has What It Takes, in My Opinion
This is a tough one for me.
I thought it was entirely possible the Checkers could cause an upset knocking out the current holders, Toronto Marlies. On the flip side, the Checkers come in as the strongest team in the AHL this season. Their having secured the Eastern Conference before any other team even had a playoff birth is a testament to that.
However, the Chicago Wolves have been strong and consistent all season. This despite many of the usual struggles with injuries and call ups. Many say that the Wolves had an easier run to the finals with the opposition they have faced to date. They might have but the easiness of their run is entirely relative.
Personally, I felt if the Wolves could get a win in the first two games at Bojangles Coliseum they might take the series, they did get just that. It could be an uphill fight for the Checkers to get back in it after an away win. These will be tough games on the road for them but they are capable of winning away from home.
Both teams have proven that they have the potential to go the distance and this will definitely be an interesting matchup. With the series currently tied at 1-1, it is certainly living up to its expectations of a tight series.
Schedule 2019 Calder Cup Finals (Best-Of-Seven)
Charlotte Checkers vs. Chicago Wolves
– Game 1 Sat., June 1 Chicago at Charlotte, 6:00 CHI (4) @ CHA (3)
– Game 2 Sun., June 2 Chicago at Charlotte, 6:00 CHI (3) @ CHA (5)
– Game 3 Wed., June 5 Charlotte at Chicago, 7:00
– Game 4 Thu., June 6 Charlotte at Chicago, 7:00
– *Game 5 Sat., June 8 Charlotte at Chicago, 7:00
– *Game 6 Thu., June 13 Chicago at Charlotte, 7:00
– *Game 7 Fri., June 14 Chicago at Charlotte, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern
Feature image credit: www.theahl.com