ECHL American Conference Finals Begin Friday

North Division Champion Cincinnati Hosts South Division Winner South Carolina

PRINCETON, N.J. – The 2008 Kelly Cup Playoffs American Conference Finals will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday when the North Division champion Cincinnati Cyclones host the South Division champion South Carolina Stingrays in Game 1 of a best-of-seven series at the U.S. Bank Arena.

It is the third trip to the conference finals for South Carolina and the second trip for Cincinnati. The Stingrays won in each of their previous trips to the conference finals in 1997 and 2001, going on to win the Kelly Cup both times, while Cincinnati lost in seven games in 2003 to eventual Kelly Cup champion Atlantic City.

Cincinnati will host Game 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday before the series travels to the North Charleston Coliseum for Games 3 and 4 at 7:05 p.m. ET on May 14 and 16.

The winner will advance to the Kelly Cup Finals where they will meet the National Conference winner. The National Conference Finals begin at 7:05 p.m. on Monday when top seed Las Vegas hosts sixth-seed Utah in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.

The Kelly Cup is the championship trophy named in honor of Patrick J. Kelly, who was one of the founding fathers of the ECHL. One of the inaugural inductees 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 50th season in professional hockey in 2002-03, 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.

The Stingrays are trying to become the first three-time winner of the Kelly Cup having won the trophy the first year it was awarded in 1997 and becoming the first two-time winner in 2001. South Carolina was the first team in history to win both the Brabham Cup, the trophy awarded to the regular season champion, and the Kelly Cup in the same season in 1996-97.

Cincinnati is the top seed in the Kelly Cup Playoffs after finishing 55-12-5 to capture the Brabham Cup with 115 points. South Carolina was 47-22-3 to finish second in the South Division, third in the conference and fourth in the league with 97 points. The Cyclones 115 points and 55 wins are the second-most in the 20-year history of the ECHL behind Louisiana’s 116 points and 56 wins in 2001-02. The Stingrays set a team record with 47 wins and their 97 points were the second most in the team’s 15-year history.

South Carolina had to win three decisive Game 5s to advance to the conference finals, including beating Columbia in the division finals. The Stingrays had to play 10 games in 14 days to reach the division finals, winning three games in a row to beat Augusta in five games in the opening round and then beating Gwinnett in five games in the second round.

The Cyclones beat Reading in seven games in the division finals to reach the conference finals after beating Johnstown in four games. Cincinnati’s 6-1 win on Monday was its first victory in a league-record three Game 7 appearances. The Cyclones lost 5-3 in Game 7 at Dayton in the North Division Finals in 2006 and 3-2 at Atlantic City in Game 7 in the conference finals in 2003.

South Carolina is making its league record 14th postseason appearance after missing the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the first time ever last season. The Stingrays hold the league postseason records for games with 111, wins with 60 and home wins with 40. The Cyclones have reached the postseason four times in five seasons, including each of the last two years. The Stingrays are 17-11 all-time in postseason series while the Cyclones are 5-4.

Cincinnati has won 63 games in the regular season and postseason, the second-most in league history behind Alaska which won 69 games when it won the Kelly Cup in 2006. The only other teams to reach 60 wins are Gwinnett, which had 61 wins when it finished second in 2006, and Trenton, which had 61 wins when it lost in the Kelly Cup Finals to South Carolina in 2001.

Cincinnati’s Chuck Weber was named Coach of the Year after finishing second in voting for the award in 2006-07. He is 92-41-11 in his first two seasons and has led the Cyclones to the postseason both years where he has a 14-7 record. Jared Bednar is in his first season as head coach of the Stingrays after five seasons as an assistant coach. He has a regular season record of 47-22-3 and a postseason record of 9-6. The former defenseman is in his 12th season with the organization having helped South Carolina win the Kelly Cup in 1997 and 2001.

It is the third time that the Stingrays have won three series in a postseason including 2001 and 1997 when they went on to win the Kelly Cup. South Carolina swept Louisiana in four games in the third round in 2001 to advance to the Kelly Cup Finals where they beat Trenton in five games. The Stingrays beat Pensacola in five games in the third round in 1997 to reach the first-ever Kelly Cup Finals where they beat Louisiana in five games.

In the Kelly Cup Playoffs South Carolina is 9-0 at home and 0-6 on the road while going 4-2 in one-goal games, including 3-2 in overtime. Cincinnati is 4-2 at home and 4-1 on the road while going 2-1 in one-goal games.

South Carolina rookies Travis Morin and Marty Guerin rank first and second in the league in the Kelly Cup Playoffs with 10 goals and nine goals, respectively. Morin, who finished tied for fourth in voting for ECHL Rookie of the Year, leads the postseason with six power-play goals and nine power-play points and his 15 points in 15 games rank second while Guerin is tied for third in scoring with 14 points in 14 games. Davis Parley of the Stingrays is 6-3 and tied for the postseason lead with two shutouts while ranking fourth in wins. Rookie teammate Josh Johnson is 3-3 and ranks fifth in goals-against average with 2.20.

South Carolina defenseman Tim Judy was a member of the Trenton Titans when they captured the Kelly Cup in 2005 while Stingrays captain Cail MacLean played for Trenton when it lost to South Carolina in 2001. Scott Romfo of the Stingrays is the younger brother of Jeff Romfo, who helped South Carolina win in 1997.

Cincinnati’s David Desharnais leads all rookies and is second overall in the postseason with 10 assists while he is tied for second among rookies and tied for third overall with 14 points in 11 games.

Desharnais won the ECHL awards for Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Leading Scorer while also being named First Team All-ECHL and to the ECHL All-Rookie Team. He was only the fifth rookie in ECHL history to be named MVP and the first since Frederic Cloutier in 2001-02. The 21 year old led the ECHL with 106 points in 68 games, the most scored by a rookie since 1996-97 when Dany Bousquet of Pee Dee had 107 points (54g-53a). Desharnais was only the fourth rookie ever to lead the ECHL in scoring joining Alex Leavitt of Alaska (91 points in 2005-06), Daryl Harpe of Erie (122 points in 1988-89) and Bill McDougall of Erie (148 points in 1989-90).

Cyclones defenseman Chad Starling won the league award for Plus Performer of the Year and was named Second Team All-ECHL. Starling’s plus-minus rating of +48 was the highest in the ECHL since 1995-96 and tied the fifth-best plus minus rating in league history.

The Cyclones set the ECHL record with 17 wins in a row from Jan. 16-29, breaking the record of 14 by Knoxville from Dec. 28, 1993-Jan. 29, 1994 and Louisiana from Nov. 23-Dec. 22, 2001. Cincinnati also had an ECHL season-high and team-record 14-game home winning streak from Jan. 5-Mar. 12.

Cincinnati tied the ECHL record with 26 road wins while their 29 home wins tied the league record for fourth-most held by Pee Dee in 1998-99, Toledo in 2002-03 and Gwinnett in 2005-06 and their 12 regulation losses ties the record for third-fewest losses held by Alaska in 2005-06 and Las Vegas in 2006-07. Cincinnati had four home losses tying the record for third-fewest shared by nine teams including Gwinnett and Alaska in 2005-06.

Broadcasting the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the fifth year in a row is B2 Networks, the “Official Broadband Broadcast Provider of the ECHL”. Fans can access the B2 Networks broadcast from the scores page on the ECHL web site.

American Conference Finals (Best-of-Seven)

Cincinnati Cyclones (55-12-5) vs. South Carolina Stingrays (47-22-3)
Game 1 – May 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Cincinnati
Game 2 – May 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Cincinnati
Game 3 – May 14 at 7:05 p.m. at South Carolina
Game 4 – May 16 at 7:05 p.m. at South Carolina
Game 5 – May 17 at 7:05 p.m. at South Carolina (if necessary)
Game 6 – May 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Cincinnati (if necessary)
Game 7 – May 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Cincinnati (if necessary)

North Division Finals (Best-of-Seven)

#1 Cincinnati Cyclones (55-12-5) vs. #3 Reading Royals (38-26-8)
Cincinnati Wins Series 4-3

Game 1 – Cincinnati 3 at READING 5
Game 2 – CINCINNATI 3 at Reading 2
Game 3 – READING 5 at Cincinnati 2
Game 4 – Reading 3 at CINCINNATI 5
Game 5 – READING 1 at Cincinnati 0
Game 6 – CINCINNATI 4 at Reading 2
Game 7 – Reading 1 at CINCINNATI 6

South Division Finals (Best-of-Five)

#2 South Carolina Stingrays (47-22-3) vs. #5 Columbia Inferno (33-28-11)
South Carolina Wins Series 3-2

Game 1 – Columbia 1 at SOUTH CAROLINA 2
Game 2 – Columbia 2 at SOUTH CAROLINA 5
Game 3 – South Carolina 3 at COLUMBIA 5
Game 4 – South Carolina 2 at COLUMBIA 3 (OT)
Game 5 – Columbia 0 at SOUTH CAROLINA 2

North Division Semifinals (Best-of-Seven)

#1 Cincinnati Cyclones (55-12-5) vs. #4 Johnstown Chiefs (36-30-6)
Cincinnati Wins Series 4-0

Game 1 – Johnstown 3 at CINCINNATI 5
Game 2 – Johnstown 1 at CINCINNATI 4
Game 3 – CINCINNATI 4 at Johnstown 2
Game 4 – CINCINNATI 3 at Johnstown 2

South Division Semifinals (Best-of-Five)

#2 South Carolina Stingrays (47-22-3) vs. #3 Gwinnett Gladiators (44-23-5)
South Carolina Wins Series 3-2

Game 1 – Gwinnett 2 at SOUTH CAROLINA 5
Game 2 – Gwinnett 4 at SOUTH CAROLINA 5 (OT)
Game 3 – South Carolina 1 at GWINNETT 4
Game 4 – South Carolina 0 at GWINNETT 3
Game 5 – Gwinnett 0 at SOUTH CAROLINA 2

South Division Quarterfinals (Best-of-Five)

#2 South Carolina Stingrays (47-22-3) vs. #7 Augusta Lynx (32-35-5)
South Carolina Wins Series 3-2

Game 1 – South Carolina 2 at AUGUSTA 5
Game 2 – South Carolina 3 at AUGUSTA 4 (OT)
Game 3 – Augusta 2 at SOUTH CAROLINA 3 (OT)
Game 4 – Augusta 2 at SOUTH CAROLINA 3 (2 OT)
Game 5 – Augusta 1 at SOUTH CAROLINA 3

ECHL
Celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08, the ECHL is the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League and the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.

ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states and has grown to be a coast-to-coast league that will play with 24 teams in 16 states and British Columbia in 2008-09.

The league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.

The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 teams in the NHL in 2007-08, marking the 11th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.

There have been 355 former ECHL players who have gone on to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including 99 in the last three seasons. There have been 210 former ECHL players who have played their first game in the NHL in the past seven seasons.

There are 15 coaches in the NHL who have ECHL experience including former Wheeling coach Peter Laviolette, who is head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, and former Mississippi coach Bruce Boudreau, who is head coach of the Washington Capitals.

The ECHL is represented for the seventh consecutive year on the National Hockey League championship team in 2007 with Anaheim assistant coach Dave Farrish, players Francois Beauchemin and George Parros and broadcasters John Ahlers and Steve Carroll.

The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League in 2007-08 and for the past 18 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup champion.

In each of the last two seasons there have been more than 225 players who have played in both the ECHL and the AHL and there were over 800 call-ups involving more than 500 players. In the last five seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,000 call-ups involving more than 1,000 players since 2002-03.

Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.