The 1948-49 season was one of change for the Indianapolis Capitals - and change for the better. With a new coach in Ott Heller and a host of new faces, the Caps were in the playoffs for the first time in three years, posted a 39-win season and re-established themselves as one of the AHL's elite teams.
1949-50 was a year to prove it.
|The Calder Cup champion 1950 Indianapolis Capitals.|
Most of the pieces were in place from the previous year. Terry Sawchuk, the AHL's Rookie of the Year in 1948-49, was rested, healthy and back for another tour in Indianapolis - thanks to future Hall of Famer Harry Lumley's presence in the Detroit Red Wing net.
Gerry Reid was back. Fred Glover and Enio Sclisizzi would soon return from Detroit and reform the line that started the previous year on fire together. The Morrison brothers, who combined for 100 points as linemates, were back. Popular Nellie Podolsky, Englishman Al Dewsbury, big scorer Gordon Haidy, winger Pat Lundy, defenseman Benny Woit - all were back and ready to make a run at the Calder Cup. Newcomers were defenders Clare Raglan and future longtime NHLer Max Quackenbush, center Jim Uniac and wings Lyall Wiseman, Sam Mulholland and Doug McKay.
These Caps had something to prove. And the lineup to prove it with.
The season's opening brought a new nearby rival in the Cincinnati Mohawks, an upstart club playing in the brand-new $2.5 million Cincinnati Gardens. The Caps helped christen the place on Oct. 11, but the 7,500 fans - 300 of which came down from Indy on a train -- looking on might've thought the rink was tilted. The visitors peppered Cincinnati's Gerry McNeil with 52 shots, while Sawchuk only saw 11. Terry stopped all of his opportunities, while the Caps beat McNeil thrice in a 3-0 victory. Don Morrison put Indy up for good with a second-period goal, and Indy added two more in the third.
Indy continued on the road with a 2-2 tie at Buffalo, in which Joe Lund scored the game-tying goal unassisted with 6:52 to play, and a 3-1 win over the Springfield Indians, thanks to Wiseman's tally early in the third that broke a 1-all deadlock. Both Reid and Don Morrison started the season hot, with three points apiece in the first three games.
But back in the Coliseum, the Cincinnati Mohawks turned the tables on the Caps, ruining Indy's season opener in front of a surprisingly-small crowd of 5,844. The Mohawks scored three early goals in the third and then survived a late torrent to win 6-5.
The next game in the Coliseum was a night for the power play to click. Indy scored four times with the man advantage to beat Pittsburgh 7-0. Don Morrison had two goals and two assists. Lundy also had a pair of goals in the rout. On Oct. 27 against Buffalo, the PP worked again when Wiseman score don the man advantage early in the third to propel the hosts to a 2-1 win over Buffalo. Sawchuk stole the game, stopping 35 shots to get the win despite his team being outshot 36-19.
Sawchuk found himself locked in another shutout battle with Emile "The Cat" Francis of New Haven a week later. New Haven scored a goal with 45 seconds left in the first and Francis made it stand in a 1-0 Rambler victory. That touched off a five-game skid that dropped the Caps to 6-8-1. They'd eventually fall to 7-11-3 by the end of November - with many of the losses coming on the annual early-season Eastern swing -- before righting themselves at the end of the trip against, who else but New Haven. Tied 1-1 late in the third, Glover swooped into the Rambler zone and dropped the puck to Reid, who fired and scored the go-ahead goal in a 2-1 win. Three nights later, the Caps were more convincing in a 6-2 win at Cincinnati.
After a 3-2 loss Dec. 4 at Buffalo, the Capitals went to Hershey to close the long Eastern swing. Rod Morrison and Scilisizzi scored two goals apiece to give the Caps a 4-1 victory.
They wouldn't lose again for a month, often winning - or getting ties - in dramatic fashion. They returned back home to beat New Haven 3-1, behind 27 Sawchuk saves and two Dewsbury goals. Two early third-period goals salvaged a 4-4 tie with Hershey, then the sticks came out against McNeil and the Mohawks in a 9-1 rout, in which Gordon Haidy had a hat trick and Don Morrison had four points - a goal and three assists.
The streak continued three nights later against Cleveland, where Haidy provided the late-game heroics, beating Johnny Bower on a rebound with 2:32 to play for a 3-2 win. It was followed with a 5-3 victory over Springfield on Christmas night, an 8-4 rout of Pittsburgh on Boxing Day, thanks to a goal and two assists from Glover and 46 Sawchuk saves.
The streak continued with a 5-4 win over Pittsburgh in which the Caps rallied from a 4-1 first-period deficit. But the victory was overshadowed by a quarrel between the Caps and Hornets. Pittsburgh tried to defend the goal the Capitals usually defended in the first period. After that matter was settled, the Hornets then amassed themselves at the Caps' usual bench, raising the ire of both Heller and general manager Dick Miller. So beginning the third period, the Capital bench moved from the south to the north side of the Coliseum, adjacent to the penalty box. Referee Red Reynolds vetoed the idea, ordered the Caps to the south side, which was again loudly protested during a 20-minute delay.
The quarreling spilled onto the rink, where Podolsky and Pete Langelle squared off, and later Dewsbury and Phil Samis began swinging sticks at one another. It also spilled into the stands, where Miller and Pittsburgh GM Johnny Mitchell began arguing, as Mitchell wanted to go to the penalty box to check on the timekeeper. Miller found it an affront to his off-ice officials, said his timekeepers were competent in reading a stopwatch, and refused to let Mitchell pass onto the parquet section of the ice, which led to another fistfight. When order was finally restored, the Capitals trailed 3-2 in the closing minutes. But Don Morrison stopped a Hornet rush, poked the puck away and swung the puck to Rod Morrison, who beat Gil Mayer with a short shot with 5:03 to play. Less than a minute later, Quackenbush fired a long shot toward the Pittsburgh goal, but it glanced off Podolsky's skate and into the net to seal a 5-4 win.
The bench brouhaha was taken care of the next time Pittsburgh visited, as a new visitor's bench was installed on the north side of the rink adjacent to the penalty box. The Caps would remain on the south side, where both team benches had previously been (and have been during the Checkers and Ice's tenures). The Caps decided to remain on the south side for several reasons, according to Miller. One was to make the bench closer to the dressing room, which was (and remains) in the building's southwest corner. It would also facilitate shooting at the west goal twice, where many ticketholders had bought seats (later teams shot at the east goal twice). By moving the visitor's bench to the opposite side of the rink, it gave the Capitals choice of goal, because a newly-implemented AHL rule stated the home team chose its goal to defend unless the benches were on the same side of the rink, whereby a team would defend closest to its bench. Therefore, if Pittsburgh decided to "steal" the Capital bench again, the Caps would still be able to choose their goal.
Anyway, bench brouhahas aside, the Capitals remained unbeaten into the new year, with Sciilsizzi saving a 2-2 New Year's Eve tie in St. Louis, scoring with 1:10 to go. The Caps made it easier on New Year's Day, beating the Flyers 3-0 in a defensive struggle that saw St. Louis fire just 15 times at Sawchuk and Indy 17 times at Red Almas. Glover had two goals, with McKay and Uniac assisting on both. Follow with a pair of 3-3 ties against Cincinnati - again, getting a goal in the final two minutes from Rod Morrison to salvage the second one. But in that Jan. 5 game, Detroit goaltender Harry Lumley was injured during a benefit game, in which he was scrambling toward the net to prevent a goal after wandering away with a forward's stick. Sawchuk got the NHL call, leaving the Capitals with Jim Shirley in goal.
Shirley allowed five goals to St. Louis in his first game on Jan. 7, but the Capitals once again pulled it out late. Trailing 5-4, Quackenbush tied the game from his defense spot at 14:06 of the third. Seventy seconds later, Podolsky scored the game-winner. But the goals piled up in Shirley's tenure. Pittsburgh broke the streak a night later at the Coliseum by a 5-2 score. In a game against Providence, the Capitals outshot the Reds 48-22 and scored seven goals, but came away with a 7-5 victory. On Jan. 14, Cleveland handed Shirley and the Caps their most humbling defeat, scoring 10 times on 44 shots to blank Indy 10-0. He did come back to make 19 saves in a 2-2 tie with St. Louis the next night - Podolsky scored both goals. The same night, Sawchuk blanked the New York Rangers to post his first NHL shutout.
However, Shirley allowed four goals in a 4-2 loss to Buffalo four nights later, dropping his record to 2-3-1. The Caps decided to send Shirley back to Detroit and dress trainer Lefty Wilson for a Jan. 22 game with Springfield. It wouldn't have mattered who the Caps put in, as Indy scored 10 times in a 10-3 rout of the Indians. Lundy had four goals and an assist, McKay three tallies and an assist, while Quackenbush had four helpers in the rout. Wilson did make 42 saves, however, to stop the Indians' advances.
Wilson's tenure in net didn't last long - just one game, in fact. Lumley healed quickly, allowing the Wings to send Sawchuk back down in time for the return game against Springfield Jan. 26, three weeks to the day after his call-up. The Caps were 20-15-8 and two points ahead of St. Louis for second place - once again, in the midst of a heated playoff race, with Pittsburgh also in the mix and just two of the three teams headed to postseason play.
He immediately shone, making 45 saves against the Indians. However, the Caps found themselves in a nip-and-tuck battle. Glover finally put the game away in the third period to give the Capitals a 4-3 victory in Sawchuk's return. Lundy shone in that contest, figuring in every Indy goal - scoring once and assisting on three others.
However, two nights later, the Pittsburgh Hornets thoroughly outplayed the Capitals in the Steel City, outshooting Indy 58-20 and outscoring the visitors 8-0. During the whitewash, a fan waved a white handkerchief at the temperamental Sawchuk, who started slashing at the fencing above the boards with his stick, then skated 25 feet to the fan and hurled himself onto the fencing. He had to be restrained by his teammates.
After rebounding with a pair of victories, a 1-3-2 stretch put the Capitals in fourth place. But a weeknight home-and-home with the lowly Cincinnati Mohawks was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps. McKay took a feed from Lund and scored with 4:59 to go to give the Caps a 4-3 victory in the Queen City, and then Indy got a big night in a 7-5 victory over the Mohawks in the Coliseum. The game was tied 4-4 headed into the third before the Caps exploded, with Clare "Rags" Raglan providing the game-winner.
The victory put the Caps two points ahead of the fourth-place Flyers and one back of the Hornets, with a home-and-home forthcoming against St. Louis. The set started Feb. 18 in St. Louis, and the Caps were dominant in a 6-2 victtory. Don Morrison and Lyall Wiseman each had two goals and two assists, while Rod Morrison assisted on four goals. Lundy scored the other two Capital tallies, sending 10,630 Flyer fans home unhappy. A throng of 7,206 greeted the teams back in Indy, where Glover and Rod Morrison scored third-period goals to key a 3-1 victory. The double-dip gave the Caps a six-point lead over the fourth-place Flyers and a more comfortable spot in the playoff race.
The Flyers would fade from contention as the Capitals and continued to win - solidifying their spot in the postseason. Now, it was just time to duke it out. The first good chance came on Feb. 25 in the Duquesne Gardens. The Hornets outplayed the Capitals - outshooting them 40-26 - and had a 2-1 lead late in the third period. Then, Rod Morrison took a feed from his brother Don - who had netted the Caps' other tally -- and scored to deliver a 2-2 tie, keeping the Caps and Hornets tied for second. The Caps lost Lyall Wiseman after he went careening into the boards head-first. Sawchuk, meanwhile, got a misconduct penalty for bumping an official while protesting a slashing call - half of the 20 PIMs he would receive that season.
The Hornets temporarily moved ahead of the Capitals after an Indy split with Cleveland - winning 8-5 in the Coliseum and losing 4-2 in Cleveland, but moved back into second on March 2 by beating Providence 5-2. Lundy had a hand in all five goals, scoring two and assisting on three others. Scilisizzi also scored twice.
More importantly, the Caps were a point ahead of the Hornets heading into another critical weekend home-and-home. Just like they'd done against St. Louis two weeks before, the Capitals posted a sweep that essentially ended the playoff chase. Pittsburgh held a significant edge in shots, but Sawchuk outplayed Al Rollins in two close games. On Saturday night, the Hornets buzzed into the third period, but Gerry Reid capped a hat trick with a goal at 12:52, giving Indy a 4-1 lead they'd barely hold onto in a 4-3 victory. On Sunday, the Caps trailed 2-1 early in the third, but Dewsbury tied the game 6:50 in and Rod Morrison beat Rollins with 56 seconds left to give Indianapolis a 3-2 victory, delighting the home crowd of 6,844. More importantly, the Caps had a 32-21-11 record - 73 points, a five-point edge on Pittsburgh and seven games to play.
With their goaltender nursing a leg injury, the Capitals only went 3-4 in those games, winning 5-2 against East leader Buffalo on March 9 before losing four of five. The one win, however, was a 7-2 shellacking of Cleveland, which was on pace to become the first AHL team to ever tally 100 points in a season. But the Hornets couldn't catch up - eventually being overtaken by St. Louis and falling out of the playoff race entirely -- and the Caps were firmly entrenched in second place.
With the final game meaning nothing, the Caps skated loose and shellacked New Haven and Emile "The Cat" Francis 13-1 to clinch a 35-24-11 record. Lundy had another five-pointer - a goal and four assists, while Dewbury had a goal and three assists, Scilisizzi a hat trick to go along with an assist while playing with Lundy and Haidy, and Podolsky three assists playing with the Morrisons.
But Glover, Lundy and Reid were the top line heading into the playoffs. Lundy finished the year with 30 goals, 47 assists and a team-high 77 points. Reid had 28-31-59 in 62 games, while Glover had 22-29-51 in 55 games. The Morrisons had nearly-identical numbers - Don 21 goals and 59 points in 57 games, Rod 27 goals and 58 points in 69. Haidy also had a 20-goal season, to go along with 10 assists in just 47 games.
For the first time, the Caps would open the playoffs against a divisional opponent, as the AHL governors chose to modify the six-team playoff format. Previously, the first, second and third-place teams in each division would meet each other in the first round, with the first-place teams going to the Calder Cup Finals and the second-and-third place teams playing down to the Finals. After the change, the first-place teams would continue to meet one another, but the second-and-third place playoffs were modified. Now, the West and East's two remaining teams would play a series within the division, rather than a corresponding team from the other division. By virtue of finishing second, the Caps would face third-place St. Louis in the opening round.
The Flyers went 34-28-8 over the regular season, with their 76-point total five back of the Capitals. They featured plenty of former Capitals, including Cliff Simpson -- whose 83 points were fifth in the AHL - Adam Brown and goaltender Red Almas.
"The organ in this cavernous arena didn't peal out with the St. Louis blues last night, but it might well have, for our Caps could do no wrong as they soundly trounced the Flyers in the first playoff game 7-1," proclaimed the Indianapolis Star's Bob Stranahan, as the Caps thoroughly dominated Game 1 in the Arena.
Sawchuk showed no signs of the leg injury that had cropped up a week before, as he stopped 34 shots and was only beaten by Brown. He had plenty of help, as the Caps spotted themselves a 3-0 lead in the first period with "some of the finest offensive play they have shown this season, at the same time, combined with an airtight defense," according to Stranahan. Glover had a three-point night, scoring the first goal 3:16 into the contest and assisting on two others. McKay, Don Morrison, Rod Morrison, Benny Woit, Lund and Raglan also beat Almas as the Caps rolled. Everything was rolling the Caps' way - with Indy leading 3-0 after one, Don Morrison took a shot 23 seconds into the second that clanked off the post, but was accidentally knocked into the net by Flyer Ernie Trigg. Rod Morrison got credit for the goal.
The next night, the Caps put the Flyers out of their misery. Sawchuk was again brilliant, though his efforts looked like they might not be enough after St. Louis' Henry Backor scored late in the first. It could've been worse. The Flyers threw five shots his way in the opening shift, and Sawchuk made a couple of "miraculous" saves on Paul Gladu. The score remained 1-0 heading into the the third, as the teams played tight, defensive hockey. But just 33 seconds into the final period, Doug McKay cracked Almas and tied the game at 1-1. The play began as Glover took the puck behind the net, fed Reid for a one-timer that was stopped. But the rebound came to McKay, who popped it into the net. The two goaltenders fended off threats - Sawchuk stopped dangerous Flyer Billy McComb on a breakaway, while Almas and the Flyers killed off two Capital power plays.
Finally, with less than three minutes to go, the Morrison-to-Morrison connection worked again, as Rod took a tough feed from his brother and beat Almas to make it 2-1. However, overtime loomed moments later when Simpson deflected Eddie Nicholson's shot at the Capital cage. The puck was briefly loose in the crease and the Flyers argued it went into the net, but the referee and goal judge both ruled it was a no goal.
St. Louis tried to stay alive by removing Almas with 21 seconds left, but Woit fired the puck into the yawning net to complete the sweep and send the Caps to the next round against the Providence Reds, winners of the Eastern playdowns, The defending Calder Cup champions had gone 34-33-3 in the regular season, but had allowed the second-most goals in the AHL. Meanwhile, the Capitals had a hot goaltender in Sawchuk, who had allowed one goal in each of his last three starts dating back to the regular-season finale.
Still, speculation was the physical Reds would have an advantage over the speedy Caps in Game 1, because the contest would be played on the small Providence rink. A standing-room only crowd hoped so, but found itself quickly disappointed. Just like St. Louis in Game 1, the Reds found themselves in a quick 3-0 hole and facing a foreboding goaltender. The Reds did shut down the Caps' top line of Podolsky-Morrison-Morrison, but the other combinations frustrated them. Just 4:13 into the game, Lundy set up Haidy for a 15-foot shot that eluded Harvey Bennett and gave the Caps a 1-0 lead. At 7:43, Reid scored the game-winner off a deft pass from McKay. It was 3-0 after Scilisizzi scored on assists from Haidy and Lundy. Providence got some hope when Jack McGill scored on a backhander, but the Caps quashed the rally with another trio in the third - coming from Reid, Haidy and Glover. McKay, Glover, Haidy and Lundy all had three-point nights as the Caps rolled to a 6-1 victory.
Coming back home, the Caps received a scare. Their prized goaltender - who had posted four one-goal games in the playoffs, was hurt - his right arm (and stick hand), which already had a crooked elbow from a childhood injury - was hurting. The arm was immobile. "I don't know what happened," Sawchuk said. "It just went lame." The diagnosis was bone chips around the elbow, which had pinched the nerves. Sawchuk underwent dithermy treatments between games and wore a cast, which didn't really hinder Sawchuk, as he had been used to playing with a locked elbow. Lefty Wilson was ready if needed, but Sawchuk was fine.
Sawchuk didn't seem to be ailing in Game 2, as he again shut down the Reds for a 4-1 victory. "Home fans had to worry whether or not Sawchuk, their injured goalie, would be able to stand up under the punishment of a lame right arm, which had to endure through the bruising 60 minutes as the do-or-die Reds battled to stay alive in the postseason set," Stranahan said in his story the next day. "But they needn't have worried. Terry was just as superb as ever."
It was a good thing, too, as the Reds weren't yielding much. The high-flying Capital offense took advantage of the big Coliseum rink to build an early two-goal lead. Don Morrison banged in a rebound 53 seconds in to give the Caps a 1-0 lead. At 4:32, Rod Morrison made it 2-0, after Don poke-checked Art Michaluk and fed Rod for a 10-foot shot from the right side. However, the Reds' Johnny Chad made it 2-1 going into the intermission with a late goal. The Caps had to kill off a four-on-three late in the second period - McKay went off for interference at 14:28, then at 16:02, Raglan and Providence's Billy Arnold got roughing minors - but Sawchuk kicked out everything that came near and preserved a 2-1 lead going into the third.
The lead stayed at 2-1 despite some tense moments - Ray LaPlante hit the goalpost. The Caps had a couple of chances - a mid-period power play and a Haidy-Reid 2-on-1 that Bennett smothered. But Haidy and Dewsbury scored two goals in the final 30 seconds to clinch the victory, and the Caps were headed back to the Calder Cup Final.
The Cleveland Barons awaited to provide the opposition. The untouchable Cleveland Barons, with Johnny Bower in net and four of the league's top 10 scorers - league leader Les Douglas (100 pts.), Pete Leswick (86), Fred Thurier (82) and Bobby Carse (82). Douglas and Leswick were former Capitals. Douglas, Leswick and Carse were all named to the First All-Star team. Right wing Roy Kelly and defenseman Danny Sprout were Second-Team All-Stars. Indy had two All-Stars - second-team defenseman Al Dewsbury and first-team goaltender Terry Sawchuk.
The All-Star goalie trumped the All-Star forwards in Game 1, as the Caps skated away from Cleveland with a 4-1 decision. After a tight, rough, scoreless opening period in which Sawchuk made 12 saves, Gerry Reid got the Caps going just two and a half minutes into the second with a shot from the right side that might have deflected off McKay's stick and past Bower. Reid got credit for the goal, however. After Ed Reigle drew a charging minor, the Caps made Cleveland pay with a power-play goal, as Don Morrison fired a rink-wide pass to brother Rod, who was charging in from the right side. Rod pushed the puck past Bower to make it 2-0. Cleveland answered with a goal by Tod Sloan, but again, it would take a lot to beat Sawchuk. The deficit looked really forbidding when Lundy shot, Bower saved and Dewsbury buried the rebound with less than two minutes to play, making it a 3-1 Indy lead.
The Caps killed off a penalty to Lund which carried over into the third, and Lundy beat Bower on a breakway midway through the period to seal a 4-1 victory.
Still, the Barons were confident - maybe even cocky. Carse said, "It's hard to be worried when you get 44 shots at them and they only get 32 at you." Sprout, the Cleveland captain, called Game 1 "Just one of those nights." He continued "We've poured plenty of pucks past Sawchuk this season, even had 10 in one game. He's no better now than then, just having a hot streak."
That hot streak was a 1.00 GAA in five playoff games and a 5-0 record. And the person in question who gave up 10 to the Barons was Shirley, not Sawchuk.
The Barons did finally break Sawchuk - twice - in Game 2. But the blue-shirted Caps were once again dominant in a 6-2 victory. "Smart hockey brains said it was virtually impossible to move into Cleveland and beat the Barons once - let alone twice," said Stranahan. "But the Caps did it, and furthermore, they even made it look easy."
After Sawchuk kicked out all 14 Cleveland shots in the first - Bower faced only five -- the Barons got a 2-1 lead in the second when Douglas and Johnny Holota scored within 2:11 of each other midway through the period - answering a Capital tally at 6:03, which came when Dewbury fired a perfect pass to Lundy in stride as he was cutting in on the left side for a goal. Holota's goal was a power-play tally, but it didn't stand up. At 12:31, Dewsbury - dubbed "The Big Guy" by media and teammates - broke up a Baron rush and again fired the puck up to Lundy in stride on the left side, who beat Bower to tie the game at 2-2.
An Indianapolis Star photo retouched to show Sawchuk with four arms and four legs must've been looking like reality to the humbled Barons, as they had nothing to show for a 27-12 shot edge in the first two periods. They'd soon have a loss, as the Capitals turned it into high gear in the third. Just 59 seconds in, Lund buried a rebound to make it 3-2. After Indianapolis killed off a tripping penalty to Haidy, Don Morrison shot into an open net for a two-goal lead. Lundy and Dewsbury connected for the third time ta 11:41, with Lundy getting the hat trick, and Lundy then fed Haidy for a goal to make it 6-2 just over a minute later.
The frustrated Baron fans took their ire out on the rink after Douglas was whistled for slashing late in the game, as they littered the ice with paper, programs and debris. Who could blame them? Their sure-fire champs were two games away from one of the biggest playoff upsets in AHL history.
The time before Game 3 revealed some verbal jostling between the teams, as Capital GM Dick Miller questioned some Cleveland injuries - including one to Fred Thurier. Bill Warwick, a replacement brought up from the USHL, had two assists on Cleveland's three goals to that point. Baron GM Jim Hendy fired back, noting the Capitals had knocked several Barons out for the season, claiming Sclisizzi deliberately attacked Baron Ed Reigle, which resulted in a broken nose for the Cleveland player. "I welcome appointment of any physician by the league president to examine (our players)," Hendy said in a telegram to AHL president Maurice Podoloff. "Also suggest league president name a psychiatrist to examine Miller."
When it came time to play hockey again, the Calder Cup came closer and closer to the Capitals. Nearly 7,000 showed up at the Coliseum to witness the pivotal Game 3. The Barons chose to rough things up. The Caps remained the aggressor, also dishing punishment and outskating the bewildered visitors. The game was tighter than the previous two, with the teams trading goals by Steve Wochy and Lundy in each of the first two periods. Lundy's two tallies gave him six for the series. Each had a power-play goal.
Tied 2-2 going into the third, the teams played a scoreless first 10 minutes, with each killing off a penalty. Finally, at 10:02, the Caps got a break. Nels Podolsky tried to pass the puck out of the corner toward the crease. It bounced off Bower's skate and went into the net for a critical third goal. Five minutes later, Scilisizzi fed Haidy with a rink-wide pass, which led to a big insurance tally and a 4-2 lead. With the local fans wildly celebrating, Carse made it tense in the final minute with a shot that deflected off a stick and into the net. But the Barons couldn't get close to the net despite pulling Bower, and the Indianapolis Capitals were one game away from a total playoff sweep.
On April 13, 7,727 fans jammed the Coliseum to smell victory. A championship awaited. The Capitals were just 60 minutes away from going 8-0 in the playoffs - an AHL first - and winning the Calder Cup for the first time in eight years. The Caps appeared to make it 1-0 when Don Morrison scored on a rebound, but Dewsbury was in the crease, disallowing the goal. The huge throng got something to cheer about late in a fast-skating first-period, when Glover scored with 1:24 to go.
Max Quackenbush hit speedy Pat Lundy for one of Lundy's patented breakaways - and he beat Bower for his seventh goal of the playoffs midway through the second. Cleveland finally beat Sawchuk when the Cap goaltender lost a shot by Sloan in his pads and it dribbled into the net, but the Caps went into the third period up 3-1 when Glover got free up the left side, deked Bower to the ice and slipped the disc into the empty net with 1:51 to go. "No single (skater) was more responsible for the victory," Stranahan said of Glover.
Sawchuk was superb in the third. He allowed a rebound goal to make it 3-2, but stopped 15 shots in the period to preserve the victory.
"Although it distinctly was a team triumph for Coach Ott Heller's skaters, superlatives couldn't be overlooked in describing the 20-year-old Terry Sawchuk," said Stranahan. "The youthful netminder, described as being the most valuable piece of property in the entire Detroit Red Wing chain, allowed only 12 goals in the eight playoff games. He limited St. Louis and Providence to a goal-a-game in the preliminary set, then stopped the lordly Barons with the same singleton in the first Finals meeting."
Podoloff simply said, "He was great ... really great."
The Caps became the first AHL team to go unbeaten in the playoffs. Sawchuk allowed 1.50 goals per game. And, to boot, the Detroit Red Wings went on to win the Stanley Cup. McKay, Sawchuk and Raglan went to Detroit to win a second Cup, but not after being feted by 400 fans at the Claypool Hotel in a postseason reception, where the Caps received the Calder Cup. Mayor Al Feeney, Lt. Gov. John Watkins and the State Fair Board president Kenneth Blackwell all feted the team for their accomplishments.
Indianapolis had toppled the mighty Barons. And in turn, became a champion.