By Mark Gokavi
Dayton Daily News
BOISE, Idaho — Adam Berkhoel had ice on his hip late Wednesday night, but looked relaxed lying on a trainer’s table in Qwest Arena.
The goalie had just made 29 saves to help Dayton to a 2-1 win and 1-0 lead in the ECHL Kelly Cup finals. Game 2 is at 9:10 ET on Friday.
For a guy who has played at the highest level of hockey, Berkhoel’s second straight Kelly Cup finals are like his hip issue — “no big deal.”
“Over my career, I played in college in the national championship game (a 1-0 title win with Denver), and that experience you take with you,” Berkhoel said. “And last year, being able to play in the NHL (2-4-1 in nine games with Atlanta) and in the AHL, it gives you a learning experience and a way to handle yourself in games.”
Berkhoel nearly had his fourth playoff shutout while stoning all but one shot from Idaho’s talented forwards.
“They’re typical saves for him, but they’re not typical for the average or even the good goalie at this level,” Bombers coach Don MacAdam said. “He’s just simply a cut above everybody at this level.”
Signed as a free agent by the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres last fall, Berkhoel spent time with the AHL’s Rochester Americans and Dayton. The Bombers are a Columbus affiliate, but since Buffalo doesn’t have an ECHL team, Berkhoel was assigned to Dayton.
“Last year, we had eight goalies, and no one had any trust back there, so guys were doing too much,” Bombers forward Paul Kelly said. “Berk’s back there — a league (all-star) MVP. The guy’s played in the show.”
Multiple teammates think Berkhoel has NHL talent, but they’re glad to have him.
“Going back down to the (ECHL) is not exactly what you want to do,” Berkhoel said. “But wherever you are, you want to play for championships.”