Winner Will Advance To Kelly Cup Finals Against Florida
PRINCETON, N.J. – A goal by Mike Scott at 9:54 of overtime gave Alaska a 2-1 win over Trenton on Friday, tying the National Conference Finals at three games each. The teams will meet in the decisive Game 7 at 11:15 p.m. ET on Monday with a sixth-consecutive standing-room-only crowd of 6,451 expected to be on hand at Sullivan Arena.
It will be the sixth Game 7 in the 17-year history of the ECHL and the third time that a conference final series has gone to a seventh game. In the 2003 Northern Conference Finals, Atlantic City beat Cincinnati 3-2 to advance to the Kelly Cup Finals where the Boardwalk Bullies beat Columbia in five games. In the 2001 Northern Conference Finals, Trenton beat Peoria 4-3 to advance to the Kelly Cup Finals where it lost in five games to South Carolina. Trenton head coach Mike Haviland was head coach of Atlantic City in 2003 and was an assistant coach with Trenton in 2001.
There have been two Game 7s in the league finals as Mississippi beat Richmond 4-3 in double overtime in Game 7 of the 1999 Kelly Cup Finals and Carolina won 7-4 at Johnstown in Game 7 of the inaugural league championship series in 1989. The other Game 7 was in 1992 when Greensboro beat Roanoke Valley in the opening round.
The teams split the first two games at Anchorage with Alaska winning 6-0 in Game 1 and Trenton winning 7-1 in Game 2. After traveling 4,444 miles east to Trenton, the teams traded 4-3 overtime wins with the Titans getting the decision in Game 3 and the Aces winning in Game 4. Trenton took a 3-2 lead with a 3-0 win in Game 5 and the teams traveled 4,444 miles back across the continent for the final two games.
Kimbi Daniels leads the Aces against Trenton with six points, including three goals which ties for the team lead with Joe Talbot. Nick Deschenes leads the Titans against Alaska with four goals and his six points tie for the team lead with Rick Kowalsky (3g-3a). Trenton’s Andrew Allen is 3-1 with a shutout, a goals-against average of 2.37, 130 saves and a save percentage of .909 against the Aces. Alaska’s Peter Aubry is 2-2 with a shutout, a goals-against average of 2.44, 152 saves and a save percentage of .927 against the Titans.
Trenton’s Scott Bertoli leads the postseason with 12 assists and he is tied for fourth in scoring with 15 points in 13 games. Trenton’s Rick Kowalsky (7g-9a) and Alaska’s Charles Linglet (6g-10a) are tied for second in scoring behind Florida rookie David Lundbohm, who leads the playoffs with nine goals and 19 points in 13 games. Trenton’s Allen leads the postseason with nine wins while ranking second in minutes (765), third in saves (341), tied for third in shutouts (1) and seventh in goals-against average (2.27). Alaska’s Aubry is tied for second with eight wins while ranking second in saves (349), third in minutes (734), tied for third in shutouts (1) and fifth in goals-against average (2.04).
The Titans lead the playoffs in power-play percentage (27.86 percent) and power-play goals (17). Trenton’s Kowalsky and Michael Schutte are tied for the playoffs lead with four power-play goals each and Bertoli and Kowalsky rank first and second in power-play assists with eight and five, respectively. The Titans have the top five power-play point producers with Bertoli (11), Kowalsky (9), Schutte (7), Stephen Wood (6) and Brent Robinson (6).
Alaska had its fifth consecutive crowd of 6,451 at 6,251-seat Sullivan Arena on Friday and another standing-room-only crowd is expected on Monday. The crowds 6,451 are the five largest in the postseason and the Aces also have the sixth-largest attendance with a sellout crowd of 6,251 in the division semifinals. Alaska leads the playoffs in total attendance with 43,658 and in average attendance with 6,236, a number that will increase to 6,264 with a sixth straight crowd of 6,451 on Monday. In its first two seasons in the ECHL, Alaska has sold out eight of its 10 postseason games and 12 regular season games, including eight in 2004-05. The Aces increased their average attendance by more than nine percent from 2003-04 when they had increased their attendance by more than 42 percent.
Alaska is playing without leading scorer and league Most Valuable Player Scott Gomez, who was injured in a 4-3 overtime loss at Bakersfield in Game 4 of the West Division Semifinals. Playing in his hometown of Anchorage during the National Hockey League lockout, Gomez was named the ECHL Most Valuable Player by league coaches, finishing ahead of teammate Chris Minard. Gomez led the ECHL with 86 points and 73 assists in 61 games while Minard led the league with 49 goals and finished fourth in scoring with 78 points in 69 games.
Finishing first in the National Conference at 45-19-8 and 98 points, Alaska has reached the Kelly Cup Playoffs in each of its first two seasons since joining the ECHL as an expansion team in 2003-04. The Aces set team records for wins (45), points (98), road wins (23), consecutive wins (6) and consecutive road wins (5) while tying the team record for home wins (22) and consecutive home wins (4). In the opening round of the postseason a year ago, the Aces (82 points) swept regular-season point champion San Diego (108 points), the seventh-largest postseason upset (26 points) in ECHL history, before losing in the division finals to eventual champion Idaho.
Trenton is making its third conference finals appearance, the most by a team since 2000, and is looking to reach the Kelly Cup Finals for the second time, having lost to South Carolina in 2001. Trenton finished second in the North Division at 42-21-9 and 93 points, advancing to the playoffs for the fifth time in its six-year history after missing the postseason in 2004. Scott Bertoli has been a member of every Trenton team that has advanced to the conference finals while Vince Williams was with the Titans in 2000 and Rick Kowalsky was part of the conference championship team that advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals.
Haviland is making his third conference finals appearance in four seasons as a head coach and his fifth conference finals appearance in six seasons behind the bench. Haviland is the fourth ECHL coach in 17 years to lead two different teams to the conference finals. John Marks coached Greenville to the conference finals in 2000 and 2002 after leading Charlotte in 1996. Jeff Brubaker coached Jacksonville to the conference finals in 1996 after leading Greensboro in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1995. Chris McSorley led Toledo to the conference finals in 1993 and 1994 after coaching Winston-Salem to the conference finals in 1990.
If Trenton advances to the Kelly Cup Finals, Haviland will join Marks (1996 and 2002), Brubaker (1990, 1991, 1995 and 1996) and McSorley (1990, 1993 and 1994) as the only coaches to lead two different teams to the league finals. Marks won the Riley Cup in 1996 and the Kelly Cup in 2002 while Brubaker won the Riley Cup in 1990 and McSorley won the Riley Cup in 1993 and 1994.
Born in Middletown, N.J., Haviland returned to the Titans in June 2004 after three years as the head coach and director of hockey operations for Atlantic City. The first professional coaching job that Haviland had was as an assistant coach during the Titans’ first two seasons after helping to scout and recruit players before the team joined the league as an expansion team in 1999-2000.
Haviland has never had less than 40 wins in a season as a head coach and his teams have finished first or second in the division each of the past three years. Named head coach of Atlantic City prior to 2001-02, he earned Coach of the Year from The Hockey News after the team reached the conference finals following a third-place regular season finish. In 2002-03, the Boardwalk Bullies, after finishing first in the division, won the Kelly Cup Championship. In 2003-04, Atlantic City won over 40 games for the third consecutive season, finished second in the division and reached the postseason for the third year in a row.
Haviland is 172-81-35 in the regular season, ranking second all-time among ECHL coaches with a winning percentage of .657, and he is 32-18 in the postseason. When combined with his two seasons as an assistant coach, Haviland is 259-128-43 in the regular season and 48-29 in the playoffs. Haviland has twice been voted by his peers to be a coach in the ECHL All-Star Game, helping lead the North Conference to an 8-2 win in 2003 and the National Conference to a 6-2 win in 2005.