📝 by Patrick Williams
Lifting the Calder Cup is becoming something of a June tradition for Chicago Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski.
Three years ago with the Charlotte Checkers, then the Carolina Hurricanes’ American Hockey League affiliate, Poturalski skated the Calder Cup at Allstate Arena after his team had defeated the Wolves in the Calder Cup Finals. His haul that spring also included the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
After two seasons in San Diego as a member of the Anaheim Ducks organization, Poturalski returned to Carolina last summer. And with the Hurricanes and Wolves now partners, Poturalski would fight to bring the Calder Cup to Chicago.
A carefully constructed roster is necessary to win the Calder Cup. Some Wolves are like forward Jack Drury and goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov, players who are high-end NHL prospects. Others like Poturalski and goaltender Alex Lyon have had elite AHL careers and are working toward their National Hockey League break. Still others like forwards Stefan Noesen, Richard Panik, or this year’s Butterfield Trophy winner, Josh Leivo, have spent considerable time in the NHL and are looking to return.
After back-to-back seasons in which the Calder Cup was not awarded because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Poturalski was back in a familiar space on Saturday night when he accepted the trophy from AHL President and CEO Scott Howson following a series-clinching 4-0 win over Springfield.
It was the conclusion of another excellent season for the sixth-year pro, who won his second consecutive AHL scoring title with 101 points in the regular season. He added 23 points in 18 playoff games ― the same totals he had during the 2019 postseason.
After arriving back in Chicago on Sunday, Poturalski shared some of his thoughts:
ON THE HOURS AFTER WINNING THE CALDER CUP
“They’ve been pretty crazy. When you win at any level, it’s a lot of fun. You put in the work all year long and all summer to win. You definitely have got to [celebrate], and we did that in the locker room.
“It was a pretty quick turnaround. Not much sleep on our end. It’s nice to be home with my wife and little guy [to] relax a little bit right now.”
ON THE TEAM MOOD BEFORE GAME 5
“Go out there and win this thing and take it.
“I think when you have a team like that, you’ve got to just come out on the attack, and I think that’s what we did. They had their season on the line to play for as well, so we also knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But unreal performance by Lyon and then a solid team effort to not really give them much and then shut them out.”
ON HOW THE STOCKTON HEAT PREPARED THE WOLVES FOR THE CALDER CUP FINALS
“Stockton was a great opponent. Every single game pretty much went right down to the wire.
“They just played such a solid team game as well. A great D corps, and [goaltender Dustin] Wolf in net for them was awesome. He didn’t give up a [bad] goal the whole series. They’re a team that just made us work for everything. They didn’t give us anything.
“They were a great opponent that really made us step up our game and elevate, and we had to play our best in order to beat them. That was a great challenge and definitely prepared us to go into Springfield.”
ON PLAYING WITH NOESEN, WHO HAD 57 GOALS BETWEEN THE REGULAR SEASON AND THE CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS
“It was awesome. I can’t say enough good things about how hard he works, and you can see why he’s played in the NHL and should probably be back there.
“It was really cool last night to embrace each other and give each other a big hug and say what a season it was together, how much fun we had, and how fun it was playing hockey and winning. That guy, he does it all. He’s one of the hardest-working guys you’ll see and doesn’t lose puck battles.
“I can’t say enough good things about him and how much fun I’ve had playing with him this year.”
“It sends a huge message that this team wants to win. It also creates a lot of good competition within our team. Everyone’s got to work hard every day. You know that you’re not safe in the lineup, and you’ve got to produce, and really our team goal here is to win.
“A good story: [Head coach Ryan Warsofsky] gave a speech and got choked up a little bit. He was talking about Bigras and how good of a teammate he’s been for us on this run. And that he didn’t get in any of the games in the playoffs, he’s a guy who’s more than deserving to be playing in the playoffs, but he didn’t complain. He didn’t say a single word the whole time, was a great teammate, was the first one cheering guys on.
“And he got emotional, and our whole team rallied together behind that. You know, that’s the type of guy we have in that room. Everybody wanted to win. But getting a guy like [Bigras] would have been huge if something were to happen. Any other team, he’s a guy who’s in the lineup, but I can’t say enough about how good a teammate he was, how he helped us throughout this roll, even though he didn’t even play in any of the games in the playoffs.
“It’s pretty cool to have a guy like that.”
ON THE LESSONS A CALDER CUP CHAMPIONSHIP PROVIDES
“That’s something that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. No one can take that away from us for a group of brothers in there.
“You know, there are so many things that everyone can take from it, all the experience playing in the playoffs. You’ve got a lot of our younger guys who are going to be working for the NHL. Us older guys, we still want to get to the NHL. Everybody who’s in the AHL I think wants to get to the NHL.
“[It’s] just a great experience to go through that, the ups and downs. You can take that into everyday life. In everything you do, you’ve got to battle through your adversity.”
ON REMEMBERING THIS TEAM
“It’s just so much fun to be on that ride with the guys. I think we were saying that before the last game to think back through all the stuff we’ve been through all year long. To have the opportunity to be in that moment, to win a game, to be champions together, we’ve got to make the most of it.
“And we did.”
Patrick Williams has been on the American Hockey League beat for nearly two decades for outlets including NHL.com, Sportsnet, TSN, The Hockey News, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and SLAM! Sports, and is currently the co-host of The Hockey News On The ‘A’ podcast. He was the recipient of the AHL’s James H. Ellery Memorial Award for his outstanding coverage of the league in 2016.