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Wolves Blank Thunderbirds to Win Calder Cup

Wolves Blank Thunderbirds to Win Calder Cup

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Chicago Wolves were crowned the 2022 Calder Cup Champions on Saturday night after they blanked the Springfield Thunderbirds in Game 5 in a commanding 4-0 win. Alex Lyon made his first start in goal since Game 1 of the series and pitched a 28-save shutout while Josh Leivo was awarded the Jack Butterfield Award as the Playoff MVP. The title is the first for Chicago since the 2007-08 season and marks the first time the Calder Cup has been awarded since 2019.

The game was a textbook win by the Wolves. Much as the case has been throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs, Chicago found itself in penalty trouble early and often, taking two minor penalties before the game was six minutes old, but their penalty kill unit continued to be perfect with five successful kills in five opportunities. The unit could have easily won the MVP awards if it were possible to give such an honor as they turned a strength of the Thunderbirds into a frustrating experience.

Chicago got another good break in the first period which resulted in their first goal when Max Lajoie fired the puck on goal from below the hash marks, pinballing into the net off of a defender and past Charlie Lindgren in goal to make it 1-0. Lindgren came up with a few excellent glove saves in the first period and finished with 26 saves on 29 shots as the busier of the two netminders in a fantastic postseason for him, but Chicago was able to get a wide variety of pucks on net that led to tallies. It was the fifth time in the five games of these playoffs that the Wolves scored the first goal, and it played a big role in securing a Calder Cup win.

Special teams were a major factor throughout the series and continued to be in this game as the Wolves would score on their first power play with Andrew Poturalski deflecting a shot from Joey Keane from the blue line that got past a screened Lindgren to double the lead. Chicago’s strength in making a lead stand up took effect after the goal as they’d make life very difficult for Springfield to try and battle back, often times making getting past the blue line difficult. The Thunderbirds gave it their absolute all in the third with a game high 15 shots on goal, but Lyon would turn them all aside and Jack Drury would seal the deal by finding David Gust on the rush to make it 3-0. Leivo tallied his 15th of the postseason on the empty net to cap off a tremendous season for him and see his team lift the Calder Cup.

Poturalski would accept the Calder Cup for the second straight time way back when it was last awarded in 2019, but this time surely feels all the sweeter with the Carolina Hurricanes changing affiliates in that time but bringing that same strong AHL connection to the Wolves this season. The Wolves have battled as a group for eight months in a turbulent season for the AHL with the highs and lows of the year through the winter months and playing much longer than a typical season makes lifting that trophy unique and very special. The Thunderbirds similarly went through an organizational shift, not participating in the 2020-21 season and coming into the year with a new NHL affiliate in the St. Louis Blues to bring quality hockey back to a historic city for the AHL, and it’s an incredible feat for their group to get to this point and playing a strong series.

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