PRINCETON, N.J. – The battle to determine the national “AA” hockey champion begins Monday when the Western Conference champion Las Vegas Wranglers host the Eastern Conference champion Florida Everblades in Game 1 of the 2012 Kelly Cup Finals at 7:05 p.m. PT at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.
Celebrating its 24th season in 2011-12, the ECHL is the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League and is the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
The Kelly Cup trophy is named for Patrick J. Kelly, who presents it each year to the postseason champion. Kelly was one of the founding fathers of the ECHL and the second inductee into the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2008. Kelly served as Commissioner for the league’s first eight seasons and was named Commissioner Emeritus in 1996, a title that he continues to hold. Kelly, who celebrated his 59th season in professional hockey in 2011-12, coached 1,900 career games and had 935 wins. Kelly coached in the Eastern Hockey League, the Southern Hockey League and the National Hockey League where he was the only coach to ever lead the Colorado Rockies to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Game 2 will be Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. PT at Orleans Arena before the series shifts to Estero, Fla., where the Everblades will host Game 3 on Friday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET and Game 4 on Tuesday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Germain Arena. Game 5, if necessary, would be at 7:30 p.m. ET at Germain Arena on Wednesday, May 23. The series would return to Las Vegas for Game 6, if necessary, on Friday, May 25 at 7:05 p.m. PT and Game 7, if necessary, at 7:05 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 26.
The ECHL is the primary development league for the AHL and the NHL. The ECHL and the AHL are the only two minor professional hockey leagues that are recognized in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association. The CBA states that any player on an NHL entry-level contract designated for assignment to a minor league must report if assigned to a team in the ECHL or the AHL. A player on an NHL entry-level contract assigned to a minor professional league other than the ECHL or the AHL is not required to report and can request reassignment to a team in the ECHL or the AHL.
How they got here
Las Vegas finished second in the Pacific Division during the regular season, posting a record of 42-22-8 for 92 points. The Wranglers defeated Utah 3 games to 0 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals and Idaho 4 games to 1 in the Western Conference Semifinals before dispatching the defending Kelly Cup champion Alaska Aces 4 games to 1 in the Western Conference Finals.
Florida, which finished third in the South Division with an overall record of 39-26-7 for 85 points, defeated Greenville 3 games to 0 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and Elmira 4 games to 1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals before eliminating defending Eastern Conference champion Kalamazoo 4 games to 1 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
First time champion to be crowned
While both Las Vegas and Florida have each appeared in the Kelly Cup Finals in the past, neither team has claimed the championship. The Wranglers are making their second Kelly Cup Finals appearance, after having lost in six games to Cincinnati in 2008. Florida is making its third trip to the Kelly Cup Finals, which is tied with six other clubs for the most Finals appearances in the ECHL’s 24-year history. Florida fell to Idaho in five games in the 2004 Kelly Cup Finals and to Trenton in six games in the 2005 Kelly Cup Finals.
Finals feature pair of top offenses, defenses
Both clubs have advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals on the strength of top offenses and defenses. Florida ranks first in the postseason with 3.69 goals per game and is second with 1.62 goals-against per game while Las Vegas is third with 2.85 goals per game and is first with 1.54 goals-against per game.
Florida’s run at home to collide with Las Vegas’ road success
When the series shifts to Germain Arena for the middle three games of the series, the home-ice run of Florida will collide with Las Vegas’ strength on the road. The Everblades are 8-0 at home during the postseason, and dating back to Feb. 3, are 19-1-2 in their last 22 home games. Florida has outscored its opponents 35-13 at home during the 2012 Kelly Cup Playoffs. Las Vegas is 7-1 on the road during the playoffs, and is 13-4-0 in its last 17 road contest dating back to the regular season.
Strong starts the hallmark of both teams
Both Florida and Las Vegas have used strong starts as the benchmarks for their success in the 2012 Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Everblades are 10-1 when scoring first, and have outscored their opponents 13-3 in the opening period. Meanwhile, the Wranglers are 8-0 when scoring first, and have a 12-7 scoring edge in the opening 20 minutes. During the 2011-12 regular season, Florida was 26-6-3 when scoring first while Las Vegas was 25-5-3 when notching the game’s first goal.
Scoring leaders on both sides
Las Vegas is led in the playoffs by Eric Lampe who has 16 points (6g-10a) in 13 postseason contests. Lampe led the ECHL in the regular season with 37 goals in just 52 games. Rookie Scott Campbell is tied for postseason lead with seven goals, and is fourth among rookies in the playoffs with eight points.
Florida’s Cedric Lalonde-McNicoll is tied with Lampe for the postseason scoring lead with 16 points (3g-13a). David Fischer is tied for the playoff lead among defensemen with three goals and 10 points.
Top playoff goaltenders featured prominently in Finals
Each of the top four goaltenders in the 2012 Kelly Cup Playoffs are on the rosters of Florida and Las Vegas. The Wranglers’ Joe Fallon tops the list with a 1.25 goals-against average, having allowed just nine goals in seven games. An All-ECHL Second Team selection in the regular season, Fallon also leads all goaltenders in the playoffs with a .953 save percentage. Las Vegas’ Mitch O’Keefe checks in fourth in the playoffs with a 1.83 goals-against average and is tied for second with a .941 save percentage.
Florida’s Pat Nagle is second with a 1.42 goals-against average, leads the postseason with two shutouts in his six appearances and is tied with O’Keefe for second with a .941 save percentage. His teammate, John Muse, is third with a 1.70 goals-against average and second with seven wins, while he is tied for fourth with a .940 save percentage.
Name already on Kelly Cup
No players in the 2012 Kelly Cup Finals have previously won the Kelly Cup. Las Vegas’ head coach Ryan Mougenel is the only participant in the Finals to have won a Kelly Cup, doing so as a player with Atlantic City in 2003.
Players returning to Finals
Florida’s Ryan McGinnis is appearing in the Kelly Cup Finals for the second consecutive year after playing for Kalamazoo last season. Las Vegas’ Mike Madill and Adam Miller each were members of the Wranglers’ 2008 Kelly Cup Finals squad while Adam Huxley was part of Idaho’s 2010 Kelly Cup Finals team.
America One broadcasts Kelly Cup Finals
For the ninth year in a row every game of the Kelly Cup Finals will be broadcast by America One, the “Official Broadband & Mobile Broadcaster of the ECHL”.
America One has broadcast more than 3,200 regular season ECHL games and over 500 Kelly Cup Playoff games around the globe the last nine years including the ECHL All-Star Game. The first hockey game broadcast by America One was the Las Vegas Wranglers in February 2004 and the first hockey championship carried by America One was the 2004 Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Visit AmericaOne.com for ordering instructions.
2012 Kelly Cup Finals Schedule
Game 1 – Monday, May 14 at 7:05 p.m. PT at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
Game 2 – Tuesday, May 15 at 7:05 p.m. PT at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
Game 3 – Friday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida
Game 4 – Tuesday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida
Game 5 – Wednesday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida *
Game 6 – Friday, May 25 at 7:05 p.m. PT at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada *
Game 7 – Saturday, May 26 at 7:05 p.m. PT at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada *
* If Necessary
Kelly Cup Champions
2011 – Alaska defeated Kalamazoo, 4 games to 1
2010 – Cincinnati defeated Idaho, 4 games to 1
2009 – South Carolina defeated Alaska, 4 games to 3
2008 – Cincinnati defeated Las Vegas, 4 games to 2
2007 – Idaho defeated Dayton, 4 games to 1
2006 – Alaska defeated Gwinnett, 4 games to 1
2005 – Trenton defeated Florida, 4 games to 2
2004 – Idaho defeated Florida, 4 games to 1
2003 – Atlantic City defeated Columbia, 4 games to 1
2002 – Greenville defeated Dayton, 4 games to 0
2001 – South Carolina defeated Trenton, 4 games to 1
2000 – Peoria defeated Louisiana, 4 games to 2
1999 – Mississippi defeated Richmond, 4 games to 3
1998 – Hampton Roads defeated Pensacola, 4 games to 2
1997 – South Carolina defeated Louisiana, 4 games to 1
Riley Cup Champions
1996 – Charlotte defeated Jacksonville, 4 games to 0
1995 – Richmond defeated Greensboro, 4 games to 1
1994 – Toledo defeated Raleigh, 4 games to 1
1993 – Toledo defeated Wheeling, 4 games to 2
1992 – Hampton Roads defeated Louisville, 4 games to 0
1991 – Hampton Roads defeated Greensboro, 4 games to 1
1990 – Greensboro defeated Winston-Salem, 4 games to 1
1989 – Carolina defeated Johnstown, 4 games to 3