Scoring title is nice, but Poturalski wants another Cup

Photo: Ross Dettman

📝 by Patrick Williams

For someone who has made a career out of impressing others, Andrew Poturalski is not all that taken by yet another one of his dominant American Hockey League seasons.

This season the Chicago Wolves forward won his second consecutive John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the AHL’s leading scorer. Poturalski’s 101 points (28 goals, 73 assists) in 71 games with the Wolves made him the fifth AHL player ever to win consecutive scoring titles, and he also won a spot as a First Team AHL All-Star among several other honors.

But it is the potential for another Calder Cup championship that would be Poturalski’s real prize. He won his first Calder Cup three years ago with the Charlotte Checkers, who defeated the Wolves in a five-game series. Dominant throughout that spring of 2019, Poturalski took home the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player in the Calder Cup Playoffs after putting up 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) in 18 games.

Following his championship season in Charlotte, Poturalski signed with the Anaheim Ducks only to endure a 2019-20 season battling injuries with the San Diego Gulls. He recovered last season to play all 44 of San Diego’s games in the abbreviated campaign, finishing with a league-leading 43 points (nine goals, 34 assists). This season has reunited the 28-year-old with Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky, a former Charlotte assistant.

“It’s cool,” Poturalski said of winning the scoring title. “It’s not what we play for. I’d be lying if I couldn’t thank all my teammates and staff around me, because they put me in a position to succeed every night. All my credit to them.

“But we’re looking to win a championship.”

So in Game 1 of the Wolves’ Central Division semifinal series with the archrival Rockford IceHogs, Poturalski went back to work in pursuit of that championship. Centering a line with dependable CJ Smith and elite goal-scorer Stefan Noesen, the Wolves peppered Rockford with 18 first-period shots, finally breaking through . Finally they broke through with 55.6 seconds to go in the opening period when Cavan Fitzgerald made the game 1-1. Then with 9.1 seconds left, Poturalski found Noesen for a crease-front stuff on a power play, and the Wolves were off to a 6-2 win in their postseason debut.

“We’re super excited for these playoffs,” Poturalski said of the Wolves, a team with a league-best 50-16-5-5 regular-season record that earned the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy.

Noesen’s league-leading 48 goals brought him the Willie Marshall Award, and he potted two goals in the Game 1 win. Warsofsky quickly recognized a spark between a pure scorer like Noesen and a playmaker like Poturalski, who had a two-assist night.

“He had 48 goals,” Poturalski said of Noesen, whose 85 points (48 goals, 37 assists) in 70 games placed him third in AHL scoring. “It’s a pretty ridiculous thing to do in this league.

“I just think we complement each other pretty well. He’s a guy who works hard and gets a lot of pucks, and I like to make plays when he works and gets those pucks, and he can obviously finish. He sees the ice. I don’t think he gets enough credit for that.”

Poturalski likes to describe the Wolves as “relentless,” and they certainly were against Rockford.

“I’d say we’re just a hard-working team,” Poturalski explained. “I know every team wants to say that. Everybody comes into training camp [and] says they have to be the hardest-working team, but we just want to be a team that’s relentless with you, line after line, [and] just doesn’t give you a chance to breathe.”

Having been through the long journey that a Calder Cup championship requires, Poturalski has taken lessons from that time in Charlotte with him to the Wolves as they embark on what they hope will be a run that stretches deep into June.

“I think it just comes down to buying in together and coming together as a team,” Poturalski continued. “And that’s the biggest thing when we were in Charlotte. Every single guy on that team loved each other and loved to play for each other. I can kind of see the same thing coming here now.

“You can’t have individuals in the playoffs.”