PRINCETON, N.J. – The Alaska Aces won their first Kelly Cup Championship on Thursday beating Gwinnett 4-3 in Game 5 at The Arena At Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga.
The Aces become only the second team to win a national professional sports title in the state of Alaska and the first since 1980. Since becoming a national league in 2003-04, the ECHL has crowned the Idaho (Boise) Steelheads as Kelly Cup Champion in 2004 and the Trenton (New Jersey) Titans in 2005. The conference finals in 2005 included Trenton meeting Alaska while the past two Kelly Cup Finals have included the Florida (Estero) Everblades.
The Aces are only the second team in the 18-year history of the ECHL to win both the regular season point championship and the postseason championship, joining the South Carolina Stingrays who captured the Brabham Cup and the Kelly Cup in 1997.
Alaska finished the regular season with 113 points which is the highest point total to win the ECHL postseason championship and the second-highest point total in league history. Gwinnett finished atop the American Conference and third overall with 107 points, tying the sixth-highest point total in league history. Alaska had 53 wins to tie the record for second-most wins while Gwinnett became only the ninth team ever to win 50 games.
The Aces are the first team to win the ECHL postseason by defeating three teams that had 100 points in the regular season. Alaska beat Las Vegas (112 points) in the West Division Finals, Fresno (100 points) in the National Conference Finals and Gwinnett (107 points) in the Kelly Cup Finals. The Aces and Gladiators were the third and fourth teams to have 100 points and reach the finals, and it was the first-ever finals meeting between two 100-point teams.
Mike Scott of Alaska was named the Most Valuable Player of the Kelly Cup Playoffs after scoring three points (2g-1a), including the game-winning goal, in the Aces come-from-behind win in Game 5 to win the Kelly Cup. Scott led Alaska in the finals with five assists and seven points and led the Kelly Cup Playoffs with 22 points (11g-11a) in 22 games.
Alaska’s Davis Payne becomes the 11th head coach to win the ECHL championship in his first finals appearance and Peter Metcalf of Alaska becomes the 11th individual to have his name engraved for the second time on the Kelly Cup, helping Atlantic City win the championship in 2003. Metcalf led defensemen in the postseason with 12 assists and his 15 points tied him for the lead with Troy Milam of Gwinnett.
Chris Minard of Alaska led the Kelly Cup Playoffs with 14 goals and nine power-play goals and tied for the league lead with 11 power-play points while teammate Kimbi Daniels led the postseason with 15 assists and was second with 20 points in 22 games. It is the second ECHL championship for Daniels, who helped Charlotte win the Riley Cup in 1996.
Gwinnett’s Cam Brown, who is the ECHL career leader with 789 games played in 13 seasons, led the Kelly Cup Playoffs with a plus-minus rating of +12 in 17 games while teammate Milan Gajic led all rookies in the postseason with 11 goals and 19 points in 17 games.
Alaska sold out both of its games in the finals and its last nine games in the 2006 playoffs to break its ECHL record of seven consecutive postseason sellouts set in 2005. Since joining the ECHL as an expansion team in 2003-04, the Aces have sold out 18 of their 22 postseason games, including 13 standing-room-only crowds of 6,451. The Kelly Cup Finals the last three years have averaged over 5,000 per game, including 10 sellout crowds.
The 4,396 miles from Duluth, Ga. to Anchorage, Alaska was the greatest distance ever between two finals teams. It was not, however, the farthest distance between two playoff teams, 4,444 miles from Anchorage to Trenton, N.J., home of the Titans who beat the Aces in the conference finals en route to the Kelly Cup title in 2005.
The 2006 finals were only the second time in league history that the top regular season conference finishers advanced to the finals. South Carolina, which finished atop the Southern Conference in 2000-01 with 100 points, beat Trenton, which finished first in the league and the Northern Conference with 104 points, in the Kelly Cup Finals in 2001. In 1992-93 when the ECHL had 15 teams and two divisions, Toledo finished first in the West Division and beat Wheeling, which finished atop the East Division, in the Riley Cup Finals.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL began in 1988 with five teams in three states and will play with 27 teams in 15 states and one Canadian province in 2006-07, including all 25 teams that operated in 2005-06. The ECHL had 416 call ups to the AHL in 2005-06, involving 263 players. The ECHL has had more players called up to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined each of the past four seasons with 1,646 call ups involving almost 1,000 players. The ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 30 teams in the NHL and there are more than 100 players in the ECHL under contract to NHL teams. There have been 303 players who have gone on to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including a record 47 in 2005-06, and each of the past five Stanley Cup winners have had a former ECHL player.
Kelly Cup Champions – Here is a complete list of Kelly Cup Champions:
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