Checkers win Calder Cup
by Dhiren Mahiban|09 JUN 2019
Playoff MVP Andrew Poturalski celebrates with the Calder Cup after the Charlotte Checkers have won the final series of the American Hockey League against the Chicago Wolves.
photo: Jacob Kupferman / Charlotte Checkers
While the Stanley Cup final series is still going on, the American Hockey League, the second-strongest league of the continent, has its new champion.

Andrew Poturalski scored twice, including the winner, as the Charlotte Checkers defeated the Chicago Wolves 5-3 on Saturday night to capture the franchise’s first Calder Cup. After losing Game 1 of the series in overtime, the team from North Carolina went on to win four straight games, including the final three on the road, to capture the top prize in the AHL.
Charlotte is the first Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers AHL affiliate to win the Calder Cup since Springfield won in 1991.
Morgan Geekie, Trevor Carrick and Zach Nastasiuk scored the other goals for Charlotte while Alex Nedeljkovic made 26 saves for the Checkers who went 15-4 in the playoffs. 
Brooks Macek, Gage Quinney and Cody Glass responded for Chicago, the AHL affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights. Oscar Dansk, who won two World Junior and one U18 Worlds silver medal with Sweden, stopped 27 shots in the loss.
Poturalski opened the scoring 91 seconds into the first finishing off a feed from Aleksi Saarela. Saarela, a member of Finland’s gold medal-winning team at the 2016 World Juniors, finished with seven goals and eight assists in 17 Calder Cup playoff games. 
After Quinney pulled to Chicago to 3-2 with 3:06 remaining in the third, Poturalski scored the game-winner into an empty net with 1:47 to play. 
The 25-year-old native of Williamsville, New York finished the Calder Cup playoffs leading all scorers with 12 goals and 23 points in 18 games and was named the recipient of the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player of the postseason.
Undrafted, Poturalski played junior hockey with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders prior to committing to the University of New Hampshire where he was a finalist for the Hobey Baker in 2016. 
In March 2016, Poturalski elected to leave UNH and sign a two-year entry-level contract with the Carolina Hurricanes. The five-foot-10, 190-pound forward scored 23 goals and a team-leading 70 points in 72 regular season games this season finishing fifth in league scoring. 
Geekie doubled Charlotte’s lead at 8:25 of the second capitalizing off a Zach Whitecloud turnover in the slot and beating Dansk. A 2017 third-round selection of the Hurricanes, Geekie finished the postseason leading all AHL rookies in scoring with eight goals and 18 points in 19 games. 
Chicago got on the board in the final minute of the second when Tomas Hyka’s shot deflected off Brooks Macek’s leg and underneath the glove of Nedeljkovic with 25.4 seconds remaining in the period. Macek, the Canadian-born, German national, who won a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics representing Germany, finished with five goals and an assist in 17 playoff games. It was his first pro season in North America after having won back-to-back German titles with Red Bull Munich in 2017 and 2018.
Carrick restored Charlotte’s two goal lead at 6:15 of the third beating Dansk with a shot from the point for his third of the playoffs. 

After Quinney and Poturalski exchanged goals 1:19 apart, Glass again pulled the Wolves to within one beating Nedeljkovic short-side with 38.1 seconds remaining for his seventh of the playoffs. 
Glass finished second behind only Geekie in rookie playoff scoring with seven goals and eight assists. With 15 points in 22 games, the Golden Knights first draft pick in franchise history (sixth overall in 2017) is tied with Guy Chouinard and Mike Richards for AHL playoff scoring by a player aged 20 or younger. Jeff Carter tops the list with his 23 points in 21 games.   
Nastasiuk ended Chicago’s bid for the equalizer scoring into an empty net with 15 seconds left to play.
The Charlotte Checkers celebrate with the Calder Cup after winning the final series of the American Hockey League.
photo: Jacob Kupferman / Charlotte Checkers
Charlotte finished an impressive 48-0-0-0 during the regular season and 10-0 in the playoffs when leading after two periods.
The Checkers finished atop the AHL regular season standings with a 51-17-7-1 record and 110 points. Charlotte then eliminated Providence 3-1 in the opening round best-of-five series, swept Hersey 4-0 and dispatched the defending champion Toronto Marlies in six games of the conference finals to earn a berth in the Calder Cup final.

Charlotte is the second franchise in as many years to win its first Calder Cup after the Toronto Marlies accomplished the feat last June.
The Calder Cup is the seventh championship in the Charlotte hockey history, as the team also won Eastern Hockey League titles in 1957, 1971 and 1972, Southern Hockey League championships in 1975 and 1976 and an ECHL championship in 1996. The Checkers moved from the third-tier ECHL to the AHL in 2010.