By Brian Compton
Adam Berkhoel was the Goaltender of the Year in the ECHL, and certainly was the Dayton Bombers’ most valuable player.
But it sure is difficult to argue with the notion that not a single person meant more to the organization this year than Derek Clancey.
His official title at the start of the 2006-07 season was associate coach, but clearly it was his style and winning attitude that caught on in the Miami Valley during the season that later translated into a division title, a conference championship and a trip to the Kelly Cup Finals.
Granted, the Bombers lost that series in five games to the Idaho Steelheads, but the fact that Dayton even made the playoffs after winning just 20 games last season was a tremendous turnaround in itself.
But the Bombers didn’t just make the playoffs — they won the North Division. And then they swept the Trenton Titans in the opening round. And then they erased a 3-1 series deficit to knock off the Cincinnati Cyclones in seven games. And then they eliminated the Florida Everblades in the American Conference Finals in another thrilling, seven-game set.
Clancey did something no coach in recent years could get either the Bombers or their fans to do — he got them to believe. While one has to believe that at least some players and/or fans are satisfied with what the Bombers’ accomplished this season, Clancey remains disappointed that his team didn’t come away with the ECHL title.
“As a coach, I expect to be in the playoffs every year and making a run for it,” Clancey said. “There were times that I didn’t know that we’d make it, just because of some things we went through as a group. We didn’t have extra guys we could plug in, so we had to play short a lot of nights. I knew that if we played simple and kept things basic, we’d earn some bounces. We had good goaltending. We worked hard and we earned our breaks.