Charlotte won its first ever Calder Cup on Saturday night
The Checkers are the Calder Cup Champions after defeating the Chicago Wolves 5-3 Saturday night to take the series 4-1. Andrew Poturalski was named the Playoffs MVP, by virtue of his 23 points, 12 goals and +15 performance during the second season.
The championship caps off a historic year for hockey in the state of North Carolina. Multiple teams within the state found success in their respective leagues.
At the highest levels, the Hurricanes ended a 10-year playoff drought and rode that momentum to a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals. Couple that with the Checkers being the undisputed best team all year long in the AHL and the future looks bright for this organization.
As you go down the levels in North Carolina hockey, you find more success. The Carolina Thunderbirds of the Federal Prospects Hockey League won The Commissioners Cup as the league’s champion. The Fayetteville Marksmen of the Southern Professional Hockey League also made their respective league’s playoffs.
Even the college level saw hockey rise to new levels in this state. While there are no Varsity level teams within North Carolina, the club level saw N.C. State run off an undefeated regular season and then advance to the national tournament in the American Collegiate Hockey Tournament. N.C. State was not only the first team from North Carolina to advance to nationals, but the first team from the Southeast region.
This banner year for the sport in North Carolina bodes well for the future and growth of the game in this state. With the Canes playoff run, came a rise in youth interest in the sport. The Hurricanes “First Goal” program filled up so quickly, more dates and locations were added and expanded to meet demand.
Hockey in North Carolina has never been stronger and with the success at all levels, the ascension shows no signs of slowing any time soon. You have to believe that many of the players you see on the Checkers have gained a lot experience and developed a champion’s mentality that they can bring to the Hurricanes when they get called up. When you’re talking about a Conference finalist getting better, there’s only a couple more levels to ascend to.
Is this the start of a new era in southern hockey? Possibly. but, no matter what the future holds this year was a historic one for the sport in North Carolina and one with effects that will ripple down into the future. North Carolina, come on and Raise Up.