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Photo: Gregg Forwerck

Checkers crowned Eastern Conference champions

Morgan Geekie scored 1:52 into the second overtime period to send the Charlotte Checkers to the Calder Cup Finals with a 4-3 win over the Toronto Marlies on Sunday evening.

Geekie crashed the Toronto net and knocked in the rebound of a Steven Lorentz shot to give Charlotte the Richard F. Canning Trophy as Eastern Conference champions.

Checkers captain Patrick Brown scored twice; Clark Bishop netted Charlotte’s fourth shorthanded goal in the last three games; and Alex Nedeljkovic made 43 saves, including 15 in a third period that saw the Marlies outshoot the Checkers by a 15-3 margin.

Toronto came back from a 2-0 deficit to take the lead on goals by Dmytro Timashov (penalty shot), Andreas Borgman and Calle Rosen.

Kasimir Kaskisuo turned aside 32 of 36 shots in the loss, which ended the Marlies’ eight-game winning streak in playoff overtime contests.

Attendance at Bojangles’ Coliseum was 8,393 — the largest crowd for a Checkers home game in more than two years.

Charlotte will take on the winner of the Western Conference Finals between the Chicago Wolves and the San Diego Gulls, currently led by the Wolves three games to two.

The top development affiliate of the Hurricanes, the Checkers – led by head coach Mike Vellucci – finished with the best record in the AHL during the regular season (51-17-7-1, 110 points, .724), then defeated the Providence Bruins (3-1) in the division semifinals and the Hershey Bears (4-0) in the division finals before unseating the defending champion Marlies. This will be the first Calder Cup Finals appearance for the Carolina organization’s top development team since the Springfield Indians won the championship in 1991.

Established in 1990, the AHL’s Eastern Conference championship trophy honors Richard F. Canning, who served the AHL for more than 50 years during his career, including a term as league president from 1958-61. Mr. Canning is recognized as the author of the AHL’s constitution, by-laws and regulations.

Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
A1-Charlotte Checkers vs. N3-Toronto Marlies
Game 1 – Fri., May 17 – Toronto 2, CHARLOTTE 1 | Recap/Highlights
Game 2 – Sat., May 18 – CHARLOTTE 5, Toronto 3 | Recap/Highlights
Game 3 – Tue., May 21 – Charlotte 5, TORONTO 1 | Recap/Highlights
Game 4 – Thu., May 23 – TORONTO 4, Charlotte 3 (OT) | Recap/Highlights
Game 5 – Fri., May 24 – Charlotte 4, TORONTO 1 | Recap/Highlights
Game 6 – Sun., May 26 – CHARLOTTE 4, Toronto 3 (2OT)