PRINCETON, N.J. – Becoming only the third ECHL team in 19 years to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series, the Dayton Bombers have joined the Alaska Aces and the Idaho Steelheads in the Final Four to become the ‘AA’ National Champion.
Making its first postseason appearance since advancing to the Kelly Cup Finals in 2002, Dayton beat Cincinnati 5-3 on Thursday in Game 7 to win the North Division. The Bombers were 37-26-9 in the regular season finishing first in the North Division with 83 points, a 37-point improvement over 2005-06. It is the second straight time that Dayton has eliminated Cincinnati from the postseason, having swept the Cyclones in the division semifinals in 2002.
The Bombers are awaiting their opponent in the best-of-seven American Conference Finals as the South Division Finals will continue on Friday with the Florida Everblades hosting the Texas Wildcatters in Game 6. The Everblades, who have played in the Kelly Cup Finals twice in the last three years, have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 7, if necessary, scheduled for Saturday.
Conference Finals Put Participating Cities In National Spotlight
Game 1 of the American Conference Finals is scheduled for Tuesday in either Beaumont, Texas or Estero, Fla. Dayton will host Game 3 at 7:30 p.m. on May 12, Game 4 on May 13 at 5 p.m. and Game 5, if necessary, on May 15 at 7 p.m. The National Conference Finals will begin Monday when defending Kelly Cup Champion Alaska hosts 2004 Kelly Cup Champion Idaho in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage. Game 2 will be May 8 at Sullivan Arena before the series travels to Qwest Arena in Boise for Games 3 and 4 on May 11 and 13 and Game 5, if necessary, on May 15.
The Kelly Cup Playoffs will bring national attention and focus to Dayton, Anchorage, Boise and either Beaumont, Texas or Estero, Fla. Since becoming a coast-to-coast league in 2003-04, the Conference Finals have been played in Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania. This year’s Conference Finals will be played across at least three different time zones with Eastern (Dayton), Mountain (Idaho) and Alaskan, and if Texas advances it would add the Central time zone.
The Kelly Cup champions the last three years have come from Alaska (Aces in 2006), Idaho (Steelheads in 2004) and New Jersey (Trenton Titans in 2005) while the runner-ups have come from Florida (Everblades in 2004 and 2005) and Georgia (Gwinnett Gladiators in 2006). The 4,396 miles from Duluth, Ga. to Anchorage, Alaska was the greatest distance ever between two teams in the Kelly Cup Finals. It was not, however, the farthest distance between two playoff teams which is 4,444 miles, the distance 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.
B2 Networks, NHL Network Broadcast Kelly Cup Playoffs
The NHL Network in Canada has broadcast the Kelly Cup Playoffs each of the past three seasons including several games being televised live. NHL Network has televised the ECHL Game of the Week for the past three seasons and along with NHL Center Ice has broadcast the ECHL All-Star Game live for the past five years.
For the fourth year in a row, B2 Networks will be broadcasting every game in the Conference Finals and the Kelly Cup Finals. The 2005 Kelly Cup Playoffs had more connections than any other hockey playoff series in B2 Networks history and the most viewers of any league in the postseason. The most-watched playoff series ever carried by B2 Networks is the 2005 Kelly Cup Finals which were the. The “Official Broadband Broadcast Provider of the ECHL”, B2 Networks has broadcast ECHL games the past four seasons including the 2007 ECHL All-Star Game.
Playoffs Produce Sellout Crowds, Greatest Moment In Alaska History
Alaska has sold out its last eight games in the Conference Finals, including five record-setting crowds of 6,451. The Final Four in the Kelly Cup Playoffs the last three years has seen more than 167,000 fans and have averaged almost 5,000 fans per game.
Alaska’s run to the Conference Finals in 2005 was chosen as the “Greatest Team Sports Moment In Alaska History” in an online poll by The Anchorage Daily News: Alaska’s Newspaper. The Aces had more than six times the number of votes received by the second-place finisher – “Libby Riddles Becoming First Woman To Win The Iditarod In 1985,” and the team was honored by the City of Anchorage with “Alaska Aces Pride Day”.
The Kelly Cup trophy is named for Patrick J. Kelly, who was one of the founding fathers of the ECHL. 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 celebrated his 50th season in professional hockey in 2002-03, 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.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs have 25 or more former ECHL players for the fourth consecutive year and six former ECHL coaches for the third straight year. The ECHL has been represented on the last six Stanley Cup champions including 2006 by Carolina head coach Peter Laviolette, who became the first ECHL coach to hoist the coveted trophy, Chad LaRose, Andrew Hutchinson and assistant athletic trainer Chris Stewart.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2006-07, marking the 10th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. There have been 329 players who have played in the NHL after the ECHL and 184 who have made their debut in the last five seasons.
There have been over 50 former ECHL players on NHL opening-day rosters each of the past four seasons including a record 57 players this season. In each of the past five seasons there have been more than 100 players on NHL contracts who have played in the ECHL including 130 in 2006-07.
The ECHL has affiliations with 24 of the 27 teams in the AHL in 2006-07 marking the sixth season in a row that the ECHL had affiliations with 20 or more teams in the AHL. In each of the last two seasons there have been more than 225 players who have played in both the ECHL and the AHL and there were over 800 call-ups involving more than 500 players. In the last five seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,000 call-ups involving more than 1,000 players since 2002-03.
There are 12 former ECHL coaches who are head coaches and nine who are assistant coaches in the AHL. The AHL Coach of the Year Award has been won six times by a former ECHL coach, including five times in the last seven seasons. The CCM Vector/AHL Player of the Week award was won 14 times by a former ECHL player in 2006-07 while a former ECHL goaltender was named the Rbk X-Pulse/AHL Goaltender of the Month each of the last five months of the season. Six former ECHL Players were on the All-AHL Teams in 2006-07 and former ECHL players were chosen as Goaltender of the Year and Defenseman of the Year.