AHL Morning Skate: 6.26.22

Photo: Lucas Armstrong

C1-Chicago Wolves vs. A2-Springfield Thunderbirds
(Chicago wins series, 4-1)

Game 1 – Sun., June 19 – Springfield 5, CHICAGO 4 (OT) | Recap
Game 2 – Mon., June 20 – CHICAGO 6, Springfield 2 | Recap
Game 3 – Wed., June 22 – Chicago 4, SPRINGFIELD 0 | Recap
Game 4 – Fri., June 24 – Chicago 4, SPRINGFIELD 2 | Recap
Game 5 – Sat., June 25 – Chicago 4, SPRINGFIELD 0 | Recap

The Chicago Wolves wrapped up their third Calder Cup championship last night with a 4-0 win over the Springfield Thunderbirds at the MassMutual Center... After dropping Game 1 in overtime, the Wolves outscored the Thunderbirds 18-4 in winning four straight to secure their first title since 2008... Alex Lyon made 28 saves in the Game 5 victory as Chicago became the first team in AHL history to get shutouts from two different goaltenders in a single Finals series... Josh Leivo earned the Jack Butterfield Trophy as the MVP of the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs after recording 29 points in 18 games, going scoreless only once all postseason... His 29 playoff points were the most by an AHL skater since Jason Krog had 38 points for the Wolves in their 2008 Cup run... Leivo’s 15 goals in the postseason were tied for the fourth-most in AHL history; only Bill McDougall (26 in 1993), Darren Haydar (18 in 2006) and Tomas Tatar (16 in 2013) have scored more... The championship was the third by a Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers affiliate, following the Charlotte Checkers (2019) and Springfield Indians (1991)... At 34, Ryan Warsofsky became the youngest head coach to win the Calder Cup since the Providence Bruins’ Peter Laviolette in 1999... Chicago trailed for a total of 8 minutes and 35 seconds in the entire Finals series... The Wolves went 9-for-20 (45.0 percent) on the power play in the Finals, while killing off 28 of 31 shorthanded chances (90.3 percent)... Chicago’s 14-4 playoff record included only one regulation loss, and they outscored their opponents by a combined score of 76-35... The Wolves scored first in each of their last 12 games and 16 of 18 overall in the postseason... The Thunderbirds drew a capacity crowd of 6,793 fans for each of their three home games in the Finals.

Always one to stay in the moment, Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s next concern was the flight back home to Chicago for his team early this morning.

“I’m just worrying about right now,” Warsofsky said, perhaps only half-jokingly minutes after lifting the Calder Cup.

To the final moments of the season, Warsofsky stuck to the talking points that took the Wolves to a league-best 50-16-5-5 regular-season record and now to a Calder Cup celebration.

Chicago had already checked off two key tasks in Game 5. They had scored first, something that they did 50 times in 76 regular-season games. They also had a lead going into the third period, familiar territory for a team that went 32-0-1-1 in the regular season when leading after two periods (and 10-2 in the Calder Cup Playoffs).

So when the Wolves hit the second intermission up 2-0, Warsofsky went back to his tried-and-true message.

“I think the message has been the same,” Warsofsky recounted. “Pretty consistent all year. Simple, hard, direct, be predictable, play for each other, do all the little things, because the little things become big things.

“And then I think we want to just be us. The last part was, ‘Do your job. Worry about the shift in front of you, and do your job within your shift.’”

They listened once again, shutting down the Thunderbirds in the third period, adding two more goals, and winning the team’s third Calder Cup championship.

“Credit to these players,” Warsofsky said. “They’re something special.”

In the end, what else could Springfield head coach Drew Bannister say?

His Thunderbirds had just gone five games with the Wolves in wrapping up the first season of an affiliation with the St. Louis Blues. He was a proud coach after his players had just won three Calder Cup Playoff rounds, defeating Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Charlotte, and then Laval in an intense seven-game Eastern Conference Finals.

After taking time with his team in the Springfield dressing room to gather his thoughts, Bannister spoke.

“I just think it’s been such a great experience for everybody in this group,” Bannister said. “As an organization for our young players, this is going to go such a long way in their development, and the next step for them, being able to play in the NHL. Playing playoff games, meaningful playoff games, for these young players goes such a long way.

“As a staff, you want to see these young men be able to win a hockey championship. Not often do you get this opportunity, and they may never get one again.

“But for me, and I’m just talking about myself, I just had so much fun with this group this year.”

Patrick Williams