By Bill Burfoot
Photo by Ross Dettman
If the first two games of the American Hockey League's Calder Cup Final between the Chicago Wolves and Charlotte Checkers is any indication, it’s that we know no lead is safe until the final buzzer has sounded.
Another thing we know is that plenty of Manitobans will be playing a crucial part in the outcome.
After splitting the first two games, the series now shifts to Chicago for the next three contests, and when the puck is dropped at Allstate Arena, no fewer than six Manitobans will be taking part.
Former Manitoba Junior Hockey League standout Zach Whitecloud has been outstanding all playoff long for the Wolves, currently leading all AHL defensemen in playoff scoring with 13 points (3G, 10A) in 19 games. The 22-year-old from Brandon scored the tying goal late in the second period in Game 1 to send the game to overtime where Stefan Matteau fired home the game-winner just over five minutes into the extra frame to give Chicago a 1-0 series lead.
Winnipegger Keegan Kolesar enters Game 3 on a three-game point streak. After picking up an assist on Chicago’s first goal of the series in Game 1, Kolesar notched his sixth goal and ninth point of the playoffs in the first period of Game 2 and added an assist in a 5-3 loss.
Cody Glass entered the playoffs with just six American Hockey League games under his belt, but the 20-year-old from Winnipeg has looked like a seasoned veteran for Chicago in the playoffs. Glass sits tied for the team-lead with 14 points in the playoffs, including finding the back of the net six times. After being held pointless in Game 1, Glass had a pair of assists for the Wolves in Game 2.
Brooks Macek averaged close to a point-per-game during the regular season for Chicago, finishing with 60 points (26G, 34A) in 64 games in the Winnipegger's first American Hockey League season. In the playoffs, Macek has found a different role, contributing three points (2G, 1A) in 14 games in helping the Wolves reach the finals.
Coming off a season where he led the Brandon Wheat Kings in scoring with 96 points and captained the club, Winnipeg native Stelio Mattheos has looked impressive in his first taste of professional hockey in the AHL playoffs. Mattheos, drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 3rdround of the 2017 draft, joined the Hurricanes' AHL affiliate in March and has contributed to the Checkers' playoff success. The 19-year-old (turns 20 on June 14), scored his third goal of the postseason in Game Two’s 5-3 win. After being held scoreless in his first four games, Mattheos now has four points in his last seven games.
Strathclair’s Morgan Geekie is currently tied for second in AHL playoff scoring with 16 points. Geekie had at least a point in eight straight games to begin the playoffs, and has only failed to hit the scoresheet four times in 16 playoff contests. While former Brandon Wheat King, and first-ever player belonging to the Vegas Golden Knights, Reid Duke, has dressed in just two postseason games.
The remaining schedule for the finals is listed below:
June 5, 8 p.m.: at Chicago
June 6, 8 p.m.: at Chicago
June 8, 8 p.m.: at Chicago
June 13, 7 p.m.: at Charlotte* if necessary
June 14, 7 p.m.: at Charlotte* if necessary