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Checkers win first AHL crown, top Chicago 5-3 to take Calder Cup

The Checkers capped off their record-breaking season Saturday night, beating the Wolves in Game 5 to capture the franchise’s first-ever Calder Cup and deliver the city of Charlotte a championship.

The league’s leading playoff scorer Andrew Poturalski wasted no time getting the Checkers on the board, collecting a slick cross-ice feed from Aleksi Sarela and lighting the lamp just 91 seconds after the opening puck drop.

Charlotte’s top line continued to heat up in the middle frame as Morgan Geekie added another for his squad, catching a Chicago turnover in the slot and wiring a quick shot under Oscar Dansk. The Wolves got a spark of life in the waning seconds of the period as they finally broke through offensively, but the Checkers reestablished their two-goal advantage early on in the third.

Geekie came up big with a faceoff win in the offensive zone and Trevor Carrick ripped the ensuing loose puck into the back of the net to make it 3-1.

The Wolves would cut back into the lead twice late in the third period – using an extra attacker both times – to increase the drama, but the Checkers would punch back each time as Poturalski and Zach Nastasiuk each buried a puck into the empty net to seal the team’s fourth straight win and end the series in five games.

The AHL’s Most Oustanding Goalie, Charlotte’s Alex Nedeljkovic made 26 saves in the win. Poturalski ended the postseason with a league-best 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists in 18 games) was named the Calder Cup Playoffs’ Most Valuable Player.

Charlote’s Calder Cup championship this season is the seventh in the city’s hockey history. Teams also won Eastern Hockey League titles in 1957, 1971 and 1972, Southern Hockey League championships in 1975 and 1976 and an ECHL championship in 1996.

The Checkers will host a public celebration at Bojangles’ Coliseum Monday at 7 p.m. Admission and parking are free for the event, which will feature a video presentation, remarks from team personnel, photo opportunities with the Calder Cup and an autograph session with Checkers players.

Season ticket holders will have the opportunity to enter the coliseum at 6 p.m. before doors open to the general public at 6:30. Parking lots open at 5 p.m. and concession stands will be open.