McCool pose

With a 3-0 shutout Saturday in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was gently on the trail of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frank “Ulcers” McCool.

But then Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mattias Ekholm beat Bobrovsky at 11:17 of the first period of Game 2 on Monday, a 4-1 Panthers victory, almost guaranteeing the survival of the late McCool’s 79-year-old Stanley Cup Final record.

The NHL-leading three consecutive Final-series shutouts, recorded by McCool in 1945, is virtually out of reach. With Florida leading this year’s Final 2-0, Oilers’ Stuart Skinner or Calvin Pickard would equal it only with three consecutive shutouts between Game 3 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, TVAS, SN) and series end.

McCool, nicknamed “Ulcers” for a stomach ailment that plagued him to his final days, appears in the Stanley Cup Final record book three times for his single-series Maple Leafs brilliance:

Most consecutive shutouts: three, April 6-12, 1945, against the Detroit Red Wings;

Longest shutout sequence: 188:35, April 6-14, 1945;

Most shutouts: three, in the 1945 seven-game series, tied with Clint Benedict of the 1926 Montreal Maroons (in four games against the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Cougars); and Martin Brodeur of the 2003 New Jersey Devils (in seven games against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim).

brodeur 2003

New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur turns aside an attempt by Steve Thomas of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in Game 1 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The 3-0 win was Brodeur’s first of two consecutive shutouts that Final series.

Eight NHL goalies have earned Stanley Cup Final consecutive-game shutouts. Matt Murray, with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017, and three late Red Wings – Earl Robertson (1937), Terry Sawchuk (1952) and Johnny Mowers (1953) – finished their series with perfect games back-to-back.

Sawchuk returned to Final action in 1954 and went 32:16 before being beaten by the Montreal Canadiens’ Bernie Geoffrion.

Brodeur is the closest to having joined McCool with three straight shutouts in a single Final series, blanking the Mighty Ducks 3-0 in both Games 1 and 2 in 2003 before Martin Chouinard scored 3:39 into the second period of Game 3.

McCool was an unlikely star for the Maple Leafs in 1944-45, never having set out to play goal.

McCool Pratt kids

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frank McCool and teammate Babe Pratt meet with Kiwanis Club minor hockey players Jack Smith (left) and Gordon Haddleton on Oct. 25, 1944, in the dressing room at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Irish-Canadian native of Calgary played minor hockey for his hometown Knights of Columbus, then attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Back in Calgary, he found work as a copyboy and sportswriter at The Albertan newspaper before he enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Released from military service because of stomach problems, having played with the Calgary Currie Army squad, McCool joined the Maple Leafs in 1944, filling the net vacated by enlisted regular Turk Broda.

It wasn’t his first try at the NHL, having previously attended training camps of the Chicago Black Hawks and New York Rangers.

The somewhat reluctant goalie signed with the Maple Leafs in October 1944 as a free agent, with a condition:

“Only if they would pay for a $100 fur coat I’d bought for my wife,” he was quoted in a May 22, 1973, obituary, having died two days earlier at age 54. “It was the only debt I had, and I didn’t like debts.”

McCool Hap Day

Frank McCool signs his 1945-46 contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs under the watchful eye of coach Hap Day. McCool won the 1944-45 Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie and led the team to the Stanley Cup championship that season.

McCool played all 50 regular-season games for Toronto in 1944-45, going 24-22-4 with a goals-against average of 3.22, second only to the 2.42 of Montreal Canadiens legend Bill Durnan, and four shutouts, equal that of the Black Hawks’ Mike Karakas.

That earned him the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, 28 writers voting him ahead of Boston Bruins forward Ken Smith and future Red Wings superstar Ted Lindsay.

McCool blanked the Canadiens in the first game of the 1945 semifinals, a series Toronto would win in six games. No doubt Ulcers had his queasy moments in Game 5, lit up for 10 goals in a 10-3 loss at the Montreal Forum, but a 3-2 victory in Game 6 sent the Maple Leafs to the Final against Detroit.

McCool thrilled Toronto fans and drove Red Wings GM and coach Jack Adams around the bend, historically blanking Detroit in Games 1, 2 and 3. The goalie’s stomach was so bad that games were sometimes held up for his milk breaks at the bench and in the dressing room, Adams charging that these pauses came conveniently with Detroit swarming Toronto’s net.

harry 1945

Detroit Red Wings goalie Harry Lumley and forward Mud Bruneteau are hugged by general manager and coach Jack Adams after Game 6 of the 1945 Stanley Cup Final at Maple Leaf Gardens. Detroit won 1-0 in overtime on Lumley’s second straight shutout and Bruneteau’s goal.

But the Red Wings didn’t roll over. They stormed back to win Game 4, then Games 5 and 6 on the strength of shutouts by 18-year-old Harry “Apple Cheeks” Lumley, Game 6 a 1-0 overtime decision, before Toronto won the Stanley Cup with a 2-1 victory at Olympia Stadium in Detroit.

McCool and Lumley set a Stanley Cup Final team record for their combined five shutouts, which still stands.

A hero in Toronto, having gone 8-5 with 2.23 GAA and four shutouts to lead the franchise to its fifth Stanley Cup title, McCool locked horns with Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe over a contract for the following season, holding out for $500 more than the boss was willing to pay.

In the end, he played 22 games in 1945-46, sharing the net with Broda, Gordie Bell and Baz Bastien. With his ulcers unrelenting and Smythe never happy carrying a goalie who battled his health, McCool retired to Calgary, first working as a night watchman for The Albertan, then returning to a typewriter.

He held various positions at the newspaper, from sportswriter to columnist to assistant publisher to general manager. As sports editor, he covered the 1949 Grey Cup game, the Canadian Football League’s championship match played in Toronto.

McCool Calder room

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frank McCool has a look at his 1944-45 Calder Trophy, which he won as the NHL’s top rookie, and in the team’s Maple Leaf Gardens dressing room, suited up for action.

“On the educated right arm of Frankie Filchock and the flying feet of Virgil Wagner and Bob Cunningham, the power-packed Montreal Alouettes rode to the Dominion football championship Saturday by downing a never-say-die band of Calgary Stampeders 28-15,” he wrote dramatically on The Albertan’s front page of Nov. 28, 1949.

Upon McCool’s 1945 Calder Trophy win, a Canadian Press wire-service report declared that the goalie “has one distinction among rookies. He is the first sportswriter to win the award.”

Indeed, McCool sometimes bristled when writers were critical of his rookie-season play. With printer’s ink in his blood long before he played NHL goal, he scolded a reporter in 1944: “Since none of you writers ever tended goal anywhere, you’re out of line when you find fault with my goaltending. But since I was a sportswriter before I became a pro goalie, I think I’m competent enough to judge your stuff.”

In retirement, McCool was a towering presence in his community, serving on many boards of directors, as a member of the Calgary Stampede’s racing committee and the council of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. An inspiration to youth, a Calgary arena and park are named in his honor.

His consecutive shutouts record, one of Stanley Cup Final goaltending’s great standards, is now within sight of its 80th birthday. And how McCool is that?

Top photo: Rookie goalie Frank “Ulcers” McCool strikes a pose with the 1944-45 Toronto Maple Leafs.