Alpha Wolves: Chicago reclaims Calder Cup

cc08_chi-champs_400.jpgROSEMONT, Ill.Jason Krog’s four-point night included his second hat trick of the postseason and propelled the Chicago Wolves to the American Hockey League’s 2008 Calder Cup championship with a 5-2 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before 9,808 fans at Allstate Arena on Tuesday night.

The Wolves, top development team of the National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers, defeated the Penguins four games to two to win their second AHL title and first since 2002.

Krog’s second goal broke a 2-2 deadlock at 4:44 of the third period, and he completed the hat trick at the 15:23 mark.

Krog capped a magical season by winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player of the 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs, finishing with 12 goals and a league record-tying 26 assists for 38 points in 24 playoff games. Krog, who won his first championship after reaching the Calder Cup Finals with Bridgeport in 2002 and the Stanley Cup Finals with Anaheim in 2003, was also named the AHL MVP in the regular season after leading the league in goals (39), assists (73) and points (112) in 80 games played.

2007 AHL Rookie of the Year Brett Sterling and 2007 AHL All-Rookie defenseman Nathan Oystrick also scored for the Wolves in Game 6, and Ondrej Pavelec made 25 saves to become the third goaltender in AHL history to win 16 games in a single postseason. Pavelec is the second rookie netminder in as many seasons to hoist the Calder Cup, as Hamilton’s Carey Price did the honors in 2007.

Chicago defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski chipped in three assists in the winning effort and finished with 25 points (10-15-25) in this year’s Calder Cup Playoffs, third on the Wolves behind Krog’s 38 and Darren Haydar‘s 27 (12-15-27). Haydar, a member of Milwaukee’s championship team in 2004, claimed his second Calder Cup title.

Luca Caputi and Mark Ardelan tallied goals to pull the Penguins out of a 2-0 deficit on Tuesday and make it a 2-2 game heading into the third period, setting the stage for Krog’s heroics.

John Anderson becomes the 12th head coach to win more than one Calder Cup championship, leading Chicago to its second title in seven seasons since joining the AHL. The Wolves won the West Division with a record of 53-22-2-3 (111 points) during the regular season, then got past the Milwaukee Admirals (4-2), Rockford IceHogs (4-3) and Toronto Marlies (4-1) before defeating the Penguins in the Finals.

Chicago’s victory brings the curtain down on the AHL’s 72nd season. In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 84 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and this season marked the seventh consecutive year in which more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America.