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Charlotte rallies to defeat Chicago in Game 4 of AHL's Calder Cup Finals

Hurricanes affiliate comes back from down two goals to move within one win of championship

by Patrick Williams / Correspondent

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Aleksi Saarela scored the go-ahead goal with 7:08 remaining in the third period, and the Charlotte Checkers rallied to move one win from the American Hockey League championship with a 5-3 victory against the Chicago Wolves in Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals at Allstate Arena on Thursday.

The Checkers, the AHL affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes, can win the Calder Cup in Game 5 of the best-of-7 series at Chicago on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN).

Saarela, who led Charlotte with 30 goals in the regular season, carried the puck into the left face-off circle and beat goalie Oscar Dansk with a rising snap shot at 12:52 to make it 4-3.

"It's heavy, it's quick," Checkers coach Mike Vellucci said of Saarela's shot. "That doesn't really make a lot of sense. But it does. It catches you by surprise."

Charlotte trailed 3-1 after Brooks Macek scored for Chicago at 13:47 of the second period.

Martin Necas got the Checkers to within 3-2 at 19:00 of the second. He has six points (three goals, three assists) in the series.

Nicolas Roy tied it 3-3 32 seconds into the third when he scored off a cross-slot pass from Julien Gauthier.

Roy scored his second of the night into an empty net with 2:32 remaining for the 5-3 final.

"We talked about it between the second and third [periods], about we're going to do this together, we're going to be positive together, and we're going to make a difference in there," Vellucci said. "And that was the key. Guys were all-in, stayed positive, and it carried over into the third."

Dustin Tokarski made 22 saves for Charlotte one night after Alex Nedeljkovic made 38 in a 4-1 win in Game 3 on Wednesday.

Nicolas Hague and Zac Leslie scored for Chicago, the AHL affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights. Dansk made 18 saves.

The Wolves had forward Curtis McKenzie back in the lineup after he was suspended for Game 3 for a fight in Game 2, but forward Daniel Carr, who won the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL MVP, missed Game 4 with an undisclosed injury and is day to day.

Chicago coach Rocky Thompson kept a positive tone after its third straight loss in the series.

"We don't feel like we're being dominated or that there is no hope," Thompson said. "We should grieve. It stung. This one really hurt."

Hague scored an end-to-end goal 45 seconds into the game to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. It was the first time the Wolves held a lead in regulation in the series; they won 4-3 in overtime in Game 1 after coming back from down 1-0 and 3-1.

Jesper Sellgren tied it 1-1 at 5:21 when his shot from inside the blue line skipped past Dansk.

Leslie gave Chicago a 2-1 lead at 16:29 with a shot from the left point through a screen.

Photo credit: Jacob Kupferman/AHL

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