By Angela Busch
Dayton Daily News
More than halfway through the third period Friday night, an announcement flashed on the Germain Arena scoreboard:
“This is Game 7, and there are seven minutes and 59 seconds left. Just a reminder.”
The Dayton Bombers did not need to be told. They were well on their way to the Kelly Cup Finals by this point, surging to a 3-1 victory over the Florida Everblades and capturing the ECHL American Conference championship series four games to three.
Dayton advances to a best-of-seven series against the National Conference champion Idaho Steelheads for the ECHL championship beginning next Wednesday at Qwest Arena in Boise.
Dashing the hopes and dreams of 6,919 fans, the Bombers got a goal from Paul Kelly with six minutes left in the third period, extending a 2-1 lead.
“We knew the next goal was going to be huge for either team,” said Bombers goalie Adam Berkhoel, who stopped 29 shots. “Luckily, we got it and took their crowd out of the game.”
Farynuk scored first, his shot ricocheting off goalie Craig Kowalski and landing just inside the line.
“In a close series like this, luck is going to be involved,” Bombers coach Don MacAdam said. “The Everblades had some bounces go their way and so did we. That’s just hockey.”
Cullen’s goal came less than four minutes later on a wide-open shot stemming from a 2-on-1 breakaway.
Berkheol loomed largest in the final period with the Bombers being outshot 13-4.
“He’s a tremendous goaltender,” Everblades captain Ryan Brindley said.
Less than a minute into the game, Bombers forward Matt Herneisen lost his helmet in a brawl. But his swagger symbolized Dayton’s desire, and that desire continued to show itself as Dayton beat the Blades to loose pucks time after time.
The Bombers last made the Kelly Cup Finals in 2002, losing four straight to the now-defunct Greenville (S.C.) Grrrowl. Dayton missed the playoffs each of the next four seasons and last year posted the worst record in franchise history.