In their first season in the ECHL, the Idaho Steelheads won their first Kelly Cup Championship beating Florida 5-2 in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 5,374 fans at the Bank of America Centre on Saturday.
The Steelheads are the first champion in the expanded ECHL that welcomed nine new markets in 2003-04 and played with 31 teams in 17 states across five time zones. The Premier “AA” Hockey League, the ECHL will play with 30 teams in 2004-05, including the Victoria Salmon Kings. The first ECHL team outside of the United States, the Salmon Kings will play in Victoria, British Columbia.
One of the six teams from the now defunct West Coast Hockey League that joined the ECHL for 2003-04, Idaho becomes only the second expansion team in the 16-year history of the league to win the title joining the Greensboro Monarchs, who beat Winston-Salem in 1990.
The first-ever winner from the Western Conference, the Steelheads hold the distinction of being the ECHL Champion located the furthest west and also the furthest north. Boise’s latitude is 43.64564 N surpassing 2000 Kelly Cup Champion Peoria’s latitude of 40.687987 N and 1991 and 1992 ECHL Champion Toledo’s latitude of 41.640701 N. For the record, the longitude of Boise is 116.13285 W.
The Kelly Cup is named for Patrick J. Kelly who presented the trophy to Idaho Captain Jeremy Mylymok on Saturday. One of the founding fathers of the ECHL, Kelly, who celebrated his 50th year in professional hockey in 2002-03, was named ECHL Commissioner Emeritus in 1996. The Kelly Cup was first awarded to the playoff champion in 1997, replacing the Jack Riley Cup which was the championship trophy from 1989 until its retirement in 1996.
Idaho’s Andrei Vasilyev led the Finals in game-winning goals with two and in plus-minus rating with +7 and tied for the lead in goals with four while tying for second in scoring with five points (4g-1a). The Steelheads’ Zenon Konopka led the Finals with six points (4g-2a) and tied for the lead in goals with four.
Idaho’s Konopka and Jan Kopecky each had three game-winning goals tying them with the postseason lead. Konopka tied for the postseason lead with nine goals while ranking third with 17 points (9g-8a) while Kopecky ranked third in goals with eight and tied for ninth in scoring with 13 points (8g-5a).
Qualifying for the postseason for the sixth time in their six-year history, Florida won the Eastern Conference and advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals for the first time ever.
postseason with 20 points (9g-11a) while tying for the postseason lead with three game-winning goals and nine goals and tying for second with 11 assists. The Everblades’ Reggie Berg led the postseason with 14 assists and finished second in scoring with 19 points (5g-14a).