Idaho, Dayton Meet In Kelly Cup Finals

Staff and Wire Reports
The Idaho Statesman

BOISE, Idaho — The Kelly Cup Finals are set: The Idaho Steelheads will face the Dayton Bombers for the ECHL championship.

Idaho will have home-ice advantage in the series and Game 1 will be played at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday at Qwest Arena.

Game 2 will be played at 7:10 p.m. Friday before shifting to Dayton for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary).

Dayton defeated the Florida Everblades 3-1 in Game 7 of the American Conference finals Friday night in Estero, Fla.

The Steelheads were waiting to see who they would face after eliminating the Alaska Aces 4-1 in the National Conference finals on Tuesday.

In the meantime, Steelheads coach Derek Laxdal had been studying video of Dayton and Florida before Friday’s game.

“(Dayton) is a really defensive hockey club that relies on their great goaltending,” he said.

The Bombers’ starting goaltender is Adam Berkhoel, who was named the MVP of the 2007 ECHL All-Star Game, which was played at Qwest Arena in January.

“He’s a heck of a goaltender,” Laxdal said. “We’ve seen great goaltenders throughout the playoffs.”

He’s not exaggerating. The top three goaltenders in the regular season in terms of goals-against average were Las Vegas’ Mike McKenna (2.21), Alaska’s Derek Gustafson (2.37) and Berkhoel (2.44).

Idaho defeated Las Vegas in the conference semifinals before knocking off Alaska in the conference finals.

Had Florida defeated Dayton on Friday night, Idaho would have started the series on the road against the Everblades. Idaho played Florida in the Kelly Cup Finals in 2004, when the Steelheads won it all.

Instead, Idaho gets a chance to jump out and grab momentum in the series on their home ice.

“You definitely want to use that to your advantage,” Laxdal said. “Dayton wants to come in and take that advantage away, so the first game is huge.”