Lyon Hockey

Chicago advances to Calder Cup final; Rods aim to go back to back

RALEIGH, North Carolina. – For a second consecutive Calder Cup final, the Carolina Hurricanes will be represented by their affiliate of the American Hockey League (AHL).

In 2019, the Charlotte Checkers, with a roster that included Martin Necas, Steven Lorentz and Alex Nedeljkovic, defeated the Chicago Wolves, then club Vegas Golden Knights.

After COVID-19 erased opportunities to crown a champion in 2020 and 2021, this time Wolves will compete for a title in partnership with the Canes.

Capping off a six-game series against the Stockton Heat on Tuesday night at Allstate Arena, the Wolves will face the winner of Wednesday’s Game 7 between the Laval Rocket (MTL) and the Springfield Thunderbirds (STL).

“Any time your NHL club can make the playoffs and you can also have success with your AHL team, that should lead to lasting organizational success,” Canes assistant general manager Darren Yorke said. , about fulfillment. “I think it’s one thing to be successful in the AHL with a roster full of veterans, but right now in Chicago we have a really good mix. This should allow us as an organization to look back on the year and be quite proud of both. teams.”

Chicago veterans, namely Josh Leivo, Stefan Noesen and Andrew Poturalski, were the main contributors to the team’s success throughout the year and that continued to be the case in May and June. Leivo leads all AHL skaters with 20 points in 13 games, while Noesen (16) and Poturalski (14) follow close behind. The trio represent three of the league’s top six scorers so far in the Calder Cup playoffs.

“These are the guys you need in the dressing room to teach and lead by example – because they’ve been there before,” said Canes director of hockey operations Aaron Schwartz, another club architect. “A lot of them have spent time in the NHL. You have to have the right mix and I think we did that pretty well.”

As for the group of young players who could be next to make the leap to become full-time players in the Hurricanes roster, Jack Drury, Joey Keane and Pyotr Kochetkov have all produced impressively in their first stints from North American professional post-season play.

Drury, who made an unforgettable NHL debut in December by scoring two goals in his first two games, has now posted 16 points in 13 playoff games. The rookie already leads all freshmen with 16 points and in the past decade only three players have posted more in a Calder Cup run. Now with one final streak to work with, Drury could catch or overtake Morgan Geekie (18, Charlotte – 2019), Danton Heinen (18, Providence – 2017) and Michael Mersch (22, Manchester – 2015).

Keane leads all Wolves defensemen with seven points, a total that ranks tied for sixth among all AHL defensemen this postseason. Perhaps more commendably though is that the right-handed prospect has been an anchor on a defensive unit that has limited teams to just 26 goals against in 13 games.

Of course, some of that credit also belongs to Kochetkov and Alex Lyon, who both recorded shutouts in their series win over Stockton. Kochetkov’s first North American professional shutout came in the Game 6 win, stopping all 28 shots he faced.

“Our goal is to prepare these prospects for the next level. Part of that is you have to learn how to win and how to act off the ice,” Schwartz continued, once again praising the veterans for their help and guidance. “Then it should be a smooth transition [when they do get their opportunity]. What is expected in Chicago is no different from what is expected in Carolina. It’s better hockey and it’s faster, sure, but what’s expected on and off the ice should stay the same. »

“The goal for our organization is not just to be successful at the NHL level for a year. If you look back at what we’ve been able to accomplish over the last four years, to continue to be able to stay in the playoffs, you can only do that by having young players and growing them.” echoed Yorke. “Then when they come to the NHL, you have to give them the trail to prove their worth and continue to grow as players and show that development.”

Instilling culture in young players isn’t limited to the work of veterans, as every member of the Canes’ management is quick to thank head coach Ryan Warsofsky and his staff for the work done with the roster.

“Ryan, Patty [Dwyer] and Bob [Nardella] do an amazing job. Our development coaches, Sergei Samsonov, Peter Harrold and Jason Muzzatti have done a great job with everyone, not just necessarily our young players,” Yorke applauded. “When Chicago plays its best game, its forecheck is just as suffocating as ours. It’s easier said than done. We talk about these things and we want to do them, but give all their staff credit for being able to implement this with their players. It just puts guys in a position where if they’re called, they know exactly where they need to be when playing in the NHL. They preach the same messages and really play the Hurricanes way.”

Chicago will have home ice advantage in the Calder Cup Finals after finishing with its own franchise-best regular season. The series will begin Sunday afternoon in Rosemont.

(Article image via Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves)

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