It’s a dream common among ECHL players, but one that comes true for so few of them. If a player is lucky enough, this dream will become reality once in his career. He’ll have the experience of time slowing down as he hoists all 33.5 pounds of the Kelly Cup over his head and establishes, that forever, he is a champion. Vincent Arseneau, who spent the 2016-17 season with the Wichita Thunder, had this dream come true first in 2015 and then again in 2016, both times as member of the Allen Americans. In a few days, the Colorado Eagles or South Carolina Stingrays will cement themselves in ECHL history as Kelly Cup champions.
For Arseneau, who prior to landing with the Americans toward the end of the 2014-15 season had played with the Ontario Reign and Indy Fuel in the ECHL, as well as two games with the AHL’s Worcester Sharks, the anticipation of arriving with a new team was stressful. He certainly couldn’t have predicted it would progress into a championship.
“It wasn’t really an easy season for me personally….but when I got there… those guys helped me. I remember Spencer Asuchak came and picked me up from the airport. I had hit him at one point in the season and he was injured from it, so I thought for sure he’s not going to like me now and he was pretty much one of my best friends on the team. You know what happens on the ice stays on the ice when you play hockey, and right now, I still talk to him and he’s one of my best friends in hockey.”
For the Allen Americans, who were playing their first season in the ECHL in 2015, the Kelly Cup Playoffs were quite the introductory test. After defeating the South Carolina Stingrays by winning Game 7 of Kelly Cup Finals, the Allen Americans earned the right to hoist the Kelly Cup.
“I think the big thing was that we were all one. It was all of us together, it wasn’t playing for the name on the back of the jersey, we were all playing for the Allen Americans. The team, the family we were there, it was amazing.”
The Americans postseason journey the following season was no cake walk either– facing the Idaho Steelheads, the Brabham Cup winning Missouri Mavericks, champions of the ECHL regular season, and the Fort Wayne Komets before settling up to meet the Wheeling Nailers in the 2016 Kelly Cup Finals, where the Americans held home ice advantage.
“After the first series against Idaho, we were like ‘Oh my God, it’s not going to be easy this year,’ but I think after the Missouri series that’s where we got our momentum and took confidence in our game and started to believe in it. With the season they had, they were first, they didn’t lose a lot of games, and so after that (victory), I think that’s where we got our confidence.”
“It was really good after that, the atmosphere in the room, and against Wheeling with all the injuries at one point, but everybody stepped up. Some guys who were not supposed to score, they scored goals. Some guys who were supposed to score, they were blocking shots. So you know, it was just a team effort and that’s how we were able to win.”
Arseneau was quick to credit the fans in Allen for helping give the Americans home ice advantage.
“It was just amazing when you see that Allen Event Center is packed and they all were in red jerseys and when you score it’s just crazy. You know, back to back there is, for them (the fans) it’s special….it’s a really good spot to play hockey and great fans. I’ve been playing against them this year and they’re still cheering for me so it’s pretty special.”
Arseneau doesn’t fail to acknowledge the rarity of becoming a Kelly Cup champion, let alone accomplishing the feat in back to back seasons.
“Those memories are going to stay for the rest of my life and I’ll tell the stories to my kids.”
As a two-time Kelly Cup champion, he has certainly has earned the right to dole out some advice to the players still competing for the same privilege of raising the Kelly Cup.
“Just enjoy the moment and go all out. You never know what can happen – you don’t realize it but not everybody in the League will make the Playoffs and not everyone in the League will even win one series, so for me, I just say enjoy it 100% and give your best. You have to sacrifice – it’s playoffs, you have to do whatever you need to do to be your best on the ice.”