PRINCETON, N.J. – The battle to determine the national ‘AA’ hockey champion begins on Wednesday when the National Conference Champion Idaho Steelheads hosts the American Conference Champion Dayton Bombers at 7:10 p.m. MT in Game 1 of the Kelly Cup Finals at Qwest Arena in Boise, Idaho.
Since becoming a national league in 2003-04, the ECHL has seen the Kelly Cup Champion come from Alaska with the Aces in 2006, New Jersey with the Trenton Titans in 2005 and Idaho with the Steelheads in 2004. The coast-to-coast league had 25 teams in 15 states and British Columbia, Canada in 2006-07 and will celebrate its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08 with 25 teams playing in 17 states and British Columbia.
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.
Game 2 will be at 7:10 p.m. MT on Friday in Idaho while the Bombers will host Game 3 at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday at the Nutter Center in Ohio. Dayton will host Game 4 at 7 p.m. ET on May 29 and Game 5, if necessary, at 7 p.m. ET on May 31. The series would return to Idaho for Game 6, if necessary, at 7:10 p.m. MT on June 2 and Game 7 at 7:10 p.m. ET on June 5.
Idaho reached the Kelly Cup Finals and beat Florida in five games to win the first-ever national ‘AA’ title in 2004, becoming only the second expansion team in history to win the ECHL title, joining the Greensboro Monarchs who beat Winston-Salem in 1990. Dayton reached the Kelly Cup Finals in 2002 and lost in four games to Greenville. It is the second time that the Finals have been played in Idaho and Ohio as the Steelheads hosted Games 3, 4 and 5 in 2004 and the Bombers hosted Games 3 and 4 in 2002.
Seven teams have advanced to the Finals twice while the most appearances in the Finals are three. Hampton Roads holds the record with three titles having won the Riley Cup in 1991 and 1992 and the Kelly Cup in 1998. The Riley Cup was awarded to the ECHL champion from 1989-96. Toledo won the Riley Cup in 1993 and 1994 and South Carolina won the Kelly Cup in 1997 and 2001. If Idaho wins it would join Hampton Roads, Toledo and South Carolina as the only teams to win the championship each time they reached the Finals.
Making its first postseason appearance since it reached the Kelly Cup Finals in 2002, Dayton beat Trenton in three games in the division semifinals, Cincinnati in seven games in the North Division Finals and Florida in seven games in the American Conference Finals. The Bombers were 37-26-9 and finished first in the North Division with 83 points, a 37-point improvement over 2005-06.
Never missing the Kelly Cup Playoffs in its first four seasons, Idaho was 42-24-6 and finished fourth in the National Conference and sixth in the league with 90 points. After defeating fifth-seed Stockton in six games in the quarterfinals, Idaho upset Las Vegas, which finished first in the ECHL at 46-12-14 and 106 points, in six games in the semifinals. After ending Las Vegas’ ECHL record 18-game winning streak with a 4-1 win in Game 2, the Steelheads won 4-2 in Game 3, the first back-to-back regulation losses for Las Vegas since Dec. 16 and 18. The Steelheads won Game 4 to become the first team since Alaska in the Kelly Cup Playoffs a year ago to win three in a row against Las Vegas. The Steelheads upset defending Kelly Cup Champion Alaska in five games including a 1-0 road win in Game 1 and a 3-2 overtime win in Game 2 at Alaska.
Finals Features Two Of League’s Best Goaltenders In Berkhoel, Silverthorn
Steve Silverthorn has played all but 8:17 of Idaho’s 17 postseason games and is 12-5 with three shutouts, a goals-against average of 1.88 and a save percentage of .927. He leads the Kelly Cup Playoffs in wins and minutes (1055) is tied for the lead in shutouts while his goals-against average and save percentage are the best among goaltenders that have played more than 250 minutes.
Adam Berkhoel of Dayton is 11-6 and with three shutouts, a goals-against average of 2.45 and a save percentage of .916. Voted by league coaches as the ECHL Goaltender of the Year, Berkhoel is tied for the Kelly Cup Playoffs lead with three shutouts while he is fourth in goals-against average and save percentage among goaltenders with more than six appearances.
Steelheads, Bombers Have Postseason Scoring Leaders
Idaho’s Lance Galbraith is tied for second in the Kelly Cup Playoffs with nine goals, 11 assists and 20 points in 16 games. Marty Flichel of Idaho is tied for second with 11 assists and is fourth with 18 points in 17 games while Steelheads rookie Lars Helminen leads all defensemen with 11 assists and is tied for the lead with 14 points in 17 games. Helminen is tied for the rookie lead in assists and tied for third in scoring.
Dayton rookie Brad Farynuk is tied for the lead among defensemen with four goals and 14 points in 17 games. Farynuk, who is tied for third in rookie scoring, ended the ninth-longest game in ECHL history on Tuesday when he scored the winning goal at 1:23 of the third overtime to give Dayton a 4-3 win and a 1-0 lead in the American Conference Finals. Brent Walton of the Bombers is tied for the rookie lead with 11 assists while his 17 points are second and his six goals tie him for second.
Six Return To Finals, Four Try To Get Name Engraved Second Time
Idaho left wings Scott Burt and Lance Galbraith and defenseman Darrell Hay and Dayton left wing Justin Maiser are looking to join 11 others who have had their name engraved twice on the Kelly Cup. Burt, Galbraith and Hay were members of the Steelheads championship team in 2004 while Maiser played for 2006 champion Alaska.
Idaho’s Hay is making his third trip to the Kelly Cup Finals while teammates Burt, Galbraith and Nesbitt are each making their second trip as are Dayton’s Maiser, Adam Berkhoel and Lane Manson. In addition to Idaho in 2004 and 2007, Hay played for Columbia when it reached the Finals in 2003 while Burt and Galbraith played for Idaho in 2004 and 2007. Maiser played for Alaska in 2006 while Nesbitt, Berkhoel and Manson all played for Gwinnett in 2006.
Top Five Regular Season Finish Doesn’t Guarantee Finals Berth
Dayton or Idaho will become the fourth team to win the ECHL title after not finishing in the Top Five in the regular season standings. The Steelheads finished sixth 90 points (42-24-6) and the Bombers finished 10th with 83 points (37-26-9). Trenton won after finishing sixth overall in 2004-05 and Idaho won after finishing 11th overall in 2003-04. Hampton Roads finished 19th and qualified for the postseason on the last day of the 1997–98 regular season before winning the Kelly Cup. Alaska in 2005-06 and South Carolina in 1996-97 are the only teams in 18 years to finish first in the regular season and win the postseason.
Bombers Reach Finals Winning Two Game 7s
Dayton is the only team in ECHL history to play two Game 7s in a single postseason, beating Cincinnati 5-3 at home to win the North Division Finals on May 3 and at Florida 3-1 to win the American Conference on May 18. The victory at Florida marked only the third time in 12 games that a visiting team has won Game 7. The Bombers became only the third team to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series when they beat Cincinnati in the North Division Finals, winning Game 5 (6-2 at Cincinnati) before winning Game 6 (3-0 at home) and Game 7 (5-3 at home).
The Steelheads are 3-0 in overtime in 2007 and 6-3 all-time while Dayton is 1-0 in 2007 and 7-10 all-time. Dayton beat Florida 4-3 in Game 1 of the American Conference Finals in the ninth-longest game (101:23) in ECHL history on May 8. Brad Farynuk ended the game with a goal at 1:23 of the third overtime.
The team with home-ice advantages has won the ECHL title 11 times in 18 years. In the 10 years that the Kelly Cup has been awarded, the team with home-ice advantage has won six times including twice in the last three years with Alaska in 2006 and Idaho in 2004. The last team to win without having home-ice advantage was Trenton, which beat Florida in six games in 2005.
Finals Include 20 Rookies, 11 NHL Contracts, Five AHL Contracts
There are 20 rookies playing in the Kelly Cup Finals with Idaho having 11 and Dayton having nine including Brent Walton who leads the team with 11 assists and 17 points in 17 games.
The Kelly Cup Finals have 11 players who are under contract to teams in the National Hockey League and five players who are under contract to teams in the American Hockey League. B.J. Crombeen, John Lammers, Alexander Naurov and Francis Wathier are under contract to Idaho’s NHL affiliate Dallas while Tuomas Mikkonen, Colin Peters and Steve Silverthorn are under contract to the Steelheads’ AHL affiliate Iowa. Philippe Dupuis, Trevor Hendrikx, Tim Konsorada, Peter Pohl and Brent Walton are under contract to the Bombers’ NHL affiliate Columbus while Adam Berkhoel is under contract to Buffalo and Lane Manson is under contract to Atlanta. Trevor Frischmon and Brad Farynuk are under contract to Dayton’s AHL affiliate Syracuse.
For the fourth year in a row, B2 Networks is broadcasting every game in the Kelly Cup Finals and the most-watched playoff series ever carried by B2 Networks is the 2005 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 “Official Broadband Broadcast Provider of the ECHL”, B2 Networks has broadcast ECHL games the past four seasons including the 2007 ECHL All-Star Game. Fans can access the B2 Networks broadcast from the scores page on the ECHL web site.
The league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
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 former ECHL players who have gone on to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including a record 47 in 2005-06 and 26 in 2006-07. There have been 184 former ECHL players who have played their first game in the NHL in the past five seasons and 107 former ECHL players have skated in the NHL this season. More than 100 players under contract to NHL teams have played in the ECHL this season.
The ECHL was represented for the sixth consecutive year on the National Hockey League championship team in 2006, including Carolina Hurricanes head coach Peter Laviolette, who is the first ECHL coach to win the Stanley Cup.
The ECHL has affiliations with 24 of the 27 teams in the American Hockey League in 2006-07 and for the past 17 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup champion.
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.
Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.