Charlotte Checkers: Preview of The Calder Cup Finals

HERSHEY, PA - FEBRUARY 09: Charlotte Checkers center Janne Kuokkanen (23) rests during a stoppage in play during the Charlotte Checkers vs. Hershey Bears AHL game February 9, 2019 at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
HERSHEY, PA - FEBRUARY 09: Charlotte Checkers center Janne Kuokkanen (23) rests during a stoppage in play during the Charlotte Checkers vs. Hershey Bears AHL game February 9, 2019 at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Charlotte Checkers take on the Chicago Wolves in game one of the Calder Cup Finals tonight. Here is a preview for the series to win the AHL Championship.

The Charlotte Checkers, for the first time in their History, charge into the Calder Cup Finals. Not only is this the first time in the history of the team that they enter with the roster that has the best chance of winning it all. Their opponent? The Chicago Timberwolves, the Vegas Golden Knights AHL affiliate.

This is not their first meeting during the Calder Cup Playoffs. In the 2016-2017 Calder Cup Playoffs the Checkers and Timberwolves met in the first round. The best of three series went to a game five where Chicago took a three goal lead by the fourth minute of the second period and a Checkers comeback fell just short. The final score of that game matched the series; 3-2.

Tonight’s matchup starts a series for all the Marbles, The Calder Cup. Winning this trophy may not seem important for those who follow the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, but in fact it is, as the players move up to the big team, they bring those memories of winning or losing with them. But how many games will it take to win or lose the series?

Will the series be taken back to Charlotte giving North Carolina its first Hockey games almost halfway through June since 2006? Perhaps either the Windy City or the Queen City will prepare for a parade earlier than that. It will come down to how well both teams come down to Netminding, offensive pressure, and defensive tact. But who has the upper hand in either of these?

Let’s start with netminding. Starting for the Checkers will be future Carolina Hurricane Alex Nedeljkovic. The prospect has set Charlotte Checkers records and helped guide his team to the Playoffs for the third year in a row. But he also has excellent support from Dustin Tokarski, a 29 year old veteran signed to the New York Rangers who has played 34 NHL Games.

Together they have become an force of nature. Even after Ned was pulled in game two of the Eastern Conference finals and the Checkers were facing a possible two game deficit to start the series, Tokarski held the line and allowed the Checkers to complete the a comeback that probably saved their series. Ned helped shut the door on the Marlies and sent the team to the Finals.

On the other side of the ice the Chicago Wolves will most likely start Oscar Dansk, a Golden Knight prospect who has started in 14 of the 17 games the Wolves have played to get to the Calder Cup Finals. Dansk will be a difficult opponent. Having played in four game for the NHL Club last year, he netted three wins, no losses, and only allowed five goals on 93 shots giving him a sv% of .949!

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Those numbers are incredible, and they are at the NHL level! While there is something to say about the Golden Knight’s Defense last year that only allowed 93 shots across at least three games, the effort still earned him an NHL star of the week. The Charlotte Checkers’ offense will have their hands full trying to solve Dansk. But they are more than up to the task.

Led by Andrew Poturalski and Aleksi Saarela, the Checkers have been making each shot count as they racked up win after win. While they weren’t the best team in the league in goals forced, they did come second only to the forgettable Syracuse Crunch with 255 goals forced. The best part is that Only Poturalski has more than 70 points, most coming on assists. Meaning the goal scoring came from virtually everyone on the roster.

The TimberWolves have been leaning on two 71 pt players their whole season, former Montreal Canadien Daniel Carr and T.J. Tynan. Even then, they came fourth in goal scoring, an indication that that the roster has leaned heavily on their star players. But thats not a bad thing, after all they are here in the Calder Cup Finals.

That said, the Cup finals is a game of attrition, who can last longer as the season creeps deeper into the summer month of June. And that is where the importance of defensive tact comes in. No matter how much defenders feel the need to rush in to help the offense, it is defensive tact that will stop attrition and help keep the offensive forwards in the game and avoid odd man rushes.

Although the they have forced more goals than almost anyone else in the league, the Charlotte Checkers have won via their lockdown defense that has allowed them to remain the top team in the AHL by also being the team with the third least number of goals allowed. While there is a portion of that that is attributable to the netminding, the defense left its mark.

That defense is also equally present with the TimberWolves who play a very similar style of defensive hockey. There is something to say about the style that two of the teams with the least amount of goals allowed are also two of the teams showing up in the Finals. Defense wins games in the playoffs, no ifs, ands, or buts. Without excellent defense the Checkers and TimberWolves would be both playing golf.

This series will not end in four games. These two teams are too well evenly matched for that. Both have earned tough wins in their conference finals. Both have earned the right to believe they will be the ones to lift the cup. No matter who wins, at the end of the day there is something to always remember, and the Charlotte Checkers are the ones who can put it best:

That said, my prediction is that the Charlotte Checkers will take games one and two, win a game in Chicago before coming back home in game six to win the Calder Cup in front of a sold out home crowd (thats right, four wins will be needed). The towels will be waving and the cow bells will be clanging. Hockey belongs in the South. Hockey belongs in Carolina. Lets go CHECKERS!

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Question for CC Readers: What’s your prediction for the Calder Cup Finals?