It was only fitting that the Calder Cup was first handed to Steve Maltais following the Wolves' 4-3 victory over Bridgeport in double overtime Monday night. The win secured an American Hockey League title--four games to one--one year to the day from when the Wolves officially joined the league.
Maltais has been with the Wolves since the franchise began, and the team captain has now played on all three champions. More importantly, he scored a natural hat trick Monday to give the Wolves an early 3-0 lead.
Yuri Butsayev snapped a shot past Bridgeport goalie Rick DiPietro with 2 minutes 5 seconds gone in the second extra session that the 15,132 fans could officially celebrate.
"This championship is very special," said Maltais, who finished the playoffs with 12 goals. "With all the changes, our affiliation with Atlanta and not getting off to a good start, we really had to jell toward the end. We have a very gutsy bunch of guys."
Maltais beat DiPietro twice in the first 8 minutes and finished the hat trick at the 3:07 mark of the second. But the Sound Tigers answered with three second-period goals, and Jason Podollan finished the run with his slap shot from the point just two minutes before the end of the second.
"A lot of teams could have given up after that third straight goal," said the Wolves' Rob Brown, who led the AHL with 33 playoff points and set a record with 26 assists in 25 games. "But we just got better and tougher."
Wolves goalie Pasi Nurminen, who finished with 35 saves, was named most valuable player. But Brown, who assisted on all three of Maltais' goals, received something even more valuable--his first pro championship.
WOLVES 4, SOUND TIGERS 3