Goaltender Nurminen Wins Jack A. Butterfield Trophy
ROSEMONT, IL . . . The Chicago Wolves completed a historic run to the Calder Cup with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Monday night, capturing the 66th American Hockey League championship, four games to one.
In front of an Allstate Arena crowd of 15,132 fans, the second-largest playoff crowd in AHL history, Yuri Butsayev scored at 2:05 of the second overtime period to give the Wolves the title after captain Steve Maltais had scored the first three goals of the night. The Wolves’ top line of Andreas Karlsson centering Maltais and Rob Brown paced Chicago’s offense all spring, combining for 26 goals and 76 points during the Calder Cup 2002 Playoffs. Karlsson recorded 18 of his 21 points over the last 11 games, Maltais led the AHL with 12 playoff goals (including his Game 5 hat trick) and Brown posted a record-tying 26 assists and league-leading 33 points in the postseason.
Pasi Nurminen was outstanding in net for the Wolves throughout their playoff run, tying an AHL record with 15 victories and earning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the Calder Cup Playoffs’ most valuable player. Nurminen, who represented Finland at the 2002 Olympic Games, finished with a record of 15-5 in 21 playoff contests, with a 1.94 goals against average, a .936 save percentage and two shutouts. En route to the championship, Nurminen defeated an impressive list of counterparts that included Martin Prusek, J-F. Labbe, Jamie McLennan and Rick DiPietro. He is the first goaltender to win the Jack Butterfield Trophy since Albany’s Mike Dunham and Corey Schwab shared the award in 1995.
Chicago, top development team of the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers, was an impressive 12-2 on home ice during the Calder Cup 2002 Playoffs, winning their last nine contests at Allstate Arena by a combined margin of 35-11.
The Wolves, led by head coach and former AHL MVP John Anderson, finished fourth in the West Division, seventh in the Western Conference and 16th in the AHL’s overall standings in the 2001-02 regular season, and were actually on the verge of elimination just one day into the postseason. Chicago went the distance in defeating Cincinnati, Grand Rapids and Syracuse, becoming the first team ever to win three winner-take-all games in one Calder Cup playoff, and then ousted Houston to reach the Final. The Wolves knocked off an unprecedented three division winners in the Griffins, Crunch and Sound Tigers, and became the sixth team in AHL history to win the Calder Cup in their first year in the league.
The American Hockey League’s 66th season was its most successful to date, seeing an expansion from 20 to 27 teams and an all-time high in average attendance, with nearly 6.7 million fans attending games across North America. The AHL serves as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams; more than 75 percent of all players to compete in the NHL this season were AHL graduates, and 350 players took the ice in both leagues in 2001-02.