Alaska, Cincinnati to open 2014 Kelly Cup Finals on Friday
The battle to determine the national “AA” hockey champion begins Friday when the Western Conference champion Alaska Aces host the Eastern Conference champion Cincinnati Cyclones in Game 1 of the 2014 Kelly Cup Finals at 7:15 p.m. AKT at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska.
Celebrating its 26th season in 2013-14, 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 was 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 celebrates his 61st season in professional hockey in 2013-14, 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 Saturday at 7:15 p.m. AKT at Sullivan Arena with Game 3 set for Monday at 7:15 p.m. in Anchorage before the series shifts to Cincinnati, where the Cyclones will host Game 4 on Friday, June 6 at 7:35 p.m. ET. Game 5, if necessary, would be at 7:35 p.m. ET at U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday, June 7 with Game 6, if necessary, taking place on Monday, June 9 at 7:35 p.m. ET. The series would return to Alaska for Game 7, if necessary, on Wednesday, June 11.
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
Alaska finished the 2013-14 regular season with an ECHL-best 45-19-7 record for 97 points, and claimed its fourth consecutive Brabham Cup as ECHL regular-season champion. The Aces defeated Las Vegas 4 games to 0 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals and Idaho 4 games to 1 in the Western Conference Semifinals before dispatching Bakersfield 4 games to 2 in the Western Conference Finals.
Cincinnati, which finished second in the North Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference with an overall record of 41-23-8 for 90 points, defeated Orlando 4 games to 2 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and Fort Wayne 4 games to 2 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals before defeating Greenville 4 games to 2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Third-time champion to be crowned
Neither team is a stranger to the Kelly Cup Finals. Alaska is making its ECHL-record fourth appearance in the Finals. The Aces defeated Gwinnett 4 games to 1 in 2006 and Kalamazoo 4 games to 1 in 2011 while falling to South Carolina in seven games in 2009. Cincinnati has captured Kelly Cup titles in both of its previous visits to the Finals, defeating Las Vegas 4 games to 2 in 2008 and Idaho 4 games to 1 in 2010.
The winner of the series will claim its third ECHL championship, tying South Carolina (1997, 2001 and 2009 Kelly Cup) and Hampton Roads (1991 and 1992 Riley Cup and 1998 Kelly Cup) for the most championships in the ECHL’s 26-year history.
The 2014 Kelly Cup Playoffs have seen 18 overtime games through three rounds, which ranks as the fifth most for a single postseason in ECHL history. There were 26 overtime games in the 2008 Kelly Cup Playoffs and 24 overtime games in 2013. Cincinnati has been involved in seven of the 18 overtime games in the 2014 Kelly Cup Playoffs, posting a 4-3 record in those games. The Cyclones four overtime wins are tied for the second most in a single postseason in ECHL history with seven other clubs. The record for most overtime wins in a single postseason in ECHL history is five, shared by six teams, including three who did so in 2013 (Idaho, Reading and Stockton).
Alaska’s run at home to collide with Cincinnati’s road success
With the first three games of the series set to take place in Alaska, both teams will look to continue playing to their strength. The Aces were an ECHL-best 26-8-2 at home during the 2013-14 regular season, and they have continued to play well on the Olympic-sized ice sheet during the postseason with a 5-2 record at home. Both of Alaska’s home losses during the playoffs have come in overtime. During the regular season, the Cyclones posted the ECHL’s best road record, going 24-9-3 away from home, and posting the most wins on the road in the league since the 2007-08 season. In the playoffs, Cincinnati is 7-2 on the road, with both of its losses coming in overtime.
Top two offenses in postseason go head-to-head
Alaska leads the Kelly Cup Playoffs with 3.53 goals per game, while Cincinnati is tied for second with 3.11 goals per game. The Aces have gotten off to strong starts throughout the playoffs, scoring the first goal in eight of its 15 games, and going 8-0 in the process, while outscoring their opponents 21-7 in the opening 20 minutes. The Cyclones are no stranger to coming from behind in the playoffs, as Cincinnati has posted a 5-2 record when allowing the first goal, and outscoring its opponents 23-11 in the second period. The Cyclones are 3-0 when trailing after one period and 2-0 when trailing after two periods through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
Scoring leaders on both sides
Alaska is led in the playoffs by Nick Mazzolini, who leads all players in the Kelly Cup Playoffs with 27 points (9g-18a) while John Ramage leads all defensemen with 13 points (4g-9a). Fellow defenseman Kane Lafranchise is second among blueliners with 10 points (1g-9a).
Cincinnati’s Byron Froese is second in the postseason with 23 points (7g-16a) while Josh Shalla leads all players with 10 goals. Wade Megan is first among rookies in the playoffs with nine goals. Brett Wysopal (2g-7a) and Josh McFadden (0g-9a) are tied for third among defensemen in the playoffs with nine points each.
Between the pipes
Alaska has split duties in goal between veteran Gerald Coleman, who backstopped the club to the 2011 Kelly Cup title, and Calgary Flames’ contracted goalie Olivier Roy, who led Stockton to the 2013 Kelly Cup Finals. Coleman sits atop the postseason with a 1.35 goals-against average in eight appearances while Roy ranks ninth with a 2.01 goals-against average in seven games.
Rob Madore has played every second in the playoffs for Cincinnati, and leads the Kelly Cup Playoffs in wins (12), minutes played (1,138) and saves (543).
Behind the Benches
Alaska head coach Rob Murray has led the Aces to three straight Brabham Cup and Mountain Division titles in his three seasons as head coach. Murray is 137-52-26 in the regular season and 23-14 in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Cincinnati’s Ben Simon is the first coach to lead team to Kelly Cup Finals in his first season since Troy Ward led Trenton to 2001 Kelly Cup Finals.
Name already on Kelly Cup
Alaska’s Gerald Coleman and Kane Lafranchise were both members of the Aces’ Kelly Cup title squad in 2011 while assistant coach Louis Mass won the Kelly Cup as a player with Alaska in 2006 and as an assistant coach in 2011. Cincinnati’s Barry Almeida won the Kelly Cup with Reading in 2013 while assistant coach Matt Macdonald won a title as a player with the Cyclones in 2008.
Players returning to Finals
America ONE Sports broadcasts Kelly Cup Finals
For the 11th year in a row every game of the Kelly Cup Finals will be broadcast by America ONE Sports, the “Official Broadband & Mobile Broadcaster of the ECHL”.
America One has broadcast more than 4,700 regular season ECHL games and over 650 Kelly Cup Playoff games around the globe the last 11 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 AmericaOneSports.com for ordering instructions.
2014 Kelly Cup Finals Schedule
Game 1 – Friday, May 30 at 7:15 p.m. AKT at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska
Game 2 – Saturday, May 31 at 7:15 p.m. AKT at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska
Game 3 – Monday, June 2 at 7:15 p.m. AKT at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska
Game 4 – Friday, June 6 at 7:35 p.m. ET at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio
Game 5 – Saturday, June 7 at 7:35 p.m. ET at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio *
Game 6 – Monday, June 9 at 7:35 p.m. ET at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio *
Game 7 – Wednesday, June 11 at 7:15 p.m. AKT at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska *
* If Necessary
Kelly Cup Champions
2013 – Reading defeated Stockton, 4 games to 1
2012 – Florida defeated Las Vegas, 4 games to 1
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