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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

WOLVES WIN; WOLVES WIN!

The Chicago Wolves defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-2 Tuesday at the Allstate Arena, securing the 2008 American Hockey League Calder Cup Championship. Jason Krog, who was awarded the Jack A Butterfield Trophy as the post-season Most Valuable Player, had a hat trick and an assist, leading the Wolves to their victory.

The Wolves entered the game with a 3-2 series lead. A three game away stand in Wilkes-Barre had been split 2-1, with the Penguins getting the better end of the deal. The presence of veteran enforcer Dennis Bonvie on the ice, starting in game four, was credited with knocking the Wolves off-balance. The Chicago affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers, which had played a disciplined game in the Toronto series and in the first three games of the Wilkes-Barre series, began to sputter under the weight of lack of discipline and also poor officiating.

Things reached a fever point after one of the away games when Wolves Coach John Anderson said the Wolves couldn’t cover the best Penguin on the ice, and referred to the number worn by Dean Morton, 36. But Morton’s calls were not an issue on Tuesday. He only made six penalty calls and awarded just four power plays in the game.

In fact, during the first of these special team advantages, due to a call on Bonvie, John Curry made a remarkable play that could have gotten into the Wolves head if it had been quickly followed by a goal. During the PK, the Penguin goaltender lost his stick. When he was handed a stick by one of the Penguin blue liners he decided he would prefer to play without it and flung it away, defending against the Chicago attack with his mitts only.

The Chicago power play rode along the edges of the PK unit, taking sniper shots at Curry, but without being able to put one past him. Finally, one of the WBS defenders was able to put a stick on the puck and send it clear of the zone, allowing Curry to retrieve his stick.

Chicago kept the momentum going throughout the first frame, taking the lead in shots 13 to 9 and finally, on a goal by Nathan Oystrick, going ahead at the 17:39 mark of the period 1-0. Early in the second frame, at the 2:05 mark, Krog made his first goal. The Penguins then shut down the crowd, battling back with a goal by Luca Caputi and then after being unable to convert a 5:3 advantage, getting a goal a second after the 5:4 advantage started, to make the game 2-2 going into the locker room for the break.

In the final period of play, Krog scored again at the 4:44 mark and then after a spirited WBS assault, again at 15:23. This last goal was a beautiful play, with Krog firing into the open side of the net while prone on the ice. With the game now 4-2, WBS played desperately to regain a final shot at the Calder Cup, but a goal by Brett Sterling at the 17:42 mark put the game out of reach.

The Penguin bench seemed to concede the inevitable as it allowed the face of the franchise for so many years, Bonvie, to play through the end of the game. Bonvie was the last player in the traditional handshake line and the last Penguin off the ice as numerous Pennsylvania television stations interviewed him on his way to the locker room. It was the final turn on the ice for the veteran who had announced his retirement from hockey at the end of the season. Bonvie, in all of his years, had never raised either a Calder or a Stanley Cup. For many players, he was the heart of the team and added reason for winning this championship.

But it was Chicago’s night, not Wilkes-Barre. Ondrej Pavelec, the rookie goaltender, is only the third goaltender in AHL history to have won 16 post season games. He is also the second rookie goalie in a row to win the trophy, following Hamilton Bulldog Carey Price last year. An informal on-line poll of a Wolves’ fan chat site, Wolfkeeper.org, indicated fans thought Pavelec should win the MVP, followed by vet Steve Martins.

Darren Haydar, the Wolves captain, has now won two Calder Cups, the previous cup being hoisted for the Milwaukee Admirals when Haydar captained their team successfully in 2004. The team the Admirals defeated that year was also the Wilkes-Barre Penguins.

Krog has also made two visits to Chicago for a Calder Cup championship. He was on the losing 2002 Calder Cup finalist, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, when they lost to Chicago that year. He went on to play in the Stanley Cup finals with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2003. Krog was named the 2008 AHL Regular season MVP in addition to his post season MVP.

John Anderson has led the Wolves to all of their championships: 1998 and 2000 in the International Hockey League for the Turner Cup and in 2002 in the AHL for the Calder Cup. He is the 12th AHL head coach to win more than one Calder Cup Championship.

The Wolves win capped a season in which they won the AHL West Division with 111 points. The Wolves defeated the Milwaukee Admirals 4-2 in the first post-season bracket, the Rockford IceHogs 4-3 in the second bracket, and the Toronto Marlies 4-1 in the semifinals. It was the third visit to the Calder Cup finals for the Wolves since the team joined the AHL in 2002.

1 comment:

Amy Lynn said...

I was at that game...oh yes. Greatest game ever.