By Mark Simon
Special to NHL.com
May 7, 2003
The coaches and players on the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies and Columbia Inferno can finally exhale now that they will be facing off in the Kelly Cup Finals starting Wednesday night at the Carolina Coliseum.
Getting to the championship looked like it was going to be easy, as each jumped out to a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven series, only to watch the opposition make things quite a bit tougher.
It took the Bullies seven games to dispatch an upset-hungry Cincinnati Cyclones team that had already beaten the teams with the best two records in the ECHL in Toledo and Peoria. The Cyclones won three-straight games behind the goaltending of Boston Bruins prospect Peter Hamerlik, but Atlantic City hung on to capture the decisive Game 7, 3-2 on a third-period goal by captain Stefan Rivard.
Columbia’s road was nearly as difficult as Southwest Division champion Mississippi refused to succumb, winning back-to-back games to bring the series back to Columbia. The Inferno, who had won nine straight playoff games before suffering the back-to-back defeats, mustered enough for a 4-2 triumph in the clinching game.
Playing in the Kelly Cup Finals should be particularly sweet for all those involved, but it should feel especially good for a couple of key individuals who didn’t necessarily expect to be in this position not too long ago. These are their stories.
Flash back to Trenton Titans training camp last season and J.F. Caudron was feeling pretty good about his chance to make a significant impact in his first year in the East Coast Hockey League. That is until he was cut just days before the season started.