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Recap of 2021 Kelly Cup Finals

Monday, July 5th
On-ice photo of the Fort Wayne Komets following their Kelly Cup championship

The Fort Wayne Komets won the ECHL Kelly Cup championship on Friday defeating the South Carolina Stingrays 2-1 at Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana in Game 4 of the 2021 Kelly Cup Finals.

Fort Wayne, which was appearing in the Kelly Cup Finals for the first time in its nine ECHL seasons, has captured 10 championships in its 69 seasons of existence across the ECHL, Central Hockey League, United Hockey League and International Hockey League.

The Kelly Cup trophy is named for Patrick J. Kelly, who presents it each year to the postseason champion. Kelly was one of the founding fathers of the ECHL and the second inductee into the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2008. 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 66th season in hockey in 2018-19, 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.

Celebrating its 33rd season in 2020-21, the ECHL is the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League and is the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.

The ECHL is the primary development league for the AHL and the NHL. The ECHL and the AHL are the only two minor professional hockey leagues that are recognized in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the National Hockey League Players' Association. The CBA states that any player on an NHL entry-level contract designated for assignment to a minor league must report if assigned to a team in the ECHL or the AHL. A player on an NHL entry-level contract assigned to a minor professional league other than the ECHL or the AHL is not required to report and can request reassignment to a team in the ECHL or the AHL.

Harper wins Most Valuable Player award

Stephen Harper of the Fort Wayne Komets earned the June M. Kelly Playoffs Most Valuable Player Award as the Most Valuable Player of the 2021 Kelly Cup Playoffs. Harper was tied for the postseason lead with 13 points and was tied for second with six goals. He scored both of the Komets’ goals in their Kelly Cup clinching 2-1 victory over South Carolina in Game 4 of the Kelly Cup Finals.

Harper is the first rookie to receive the Playoffs MVP award since Florida’s John Muse in 2012.

The Playoffs Most Valuable Trophy was renamed in 2019 in honor of June M. Kelly, the wife of ECHL Commissioner Emeritus Patrick J. Kelly, whom the Kelly Cup is named after. Mrs. Kelly was an integral part of the ECHL behind the scenes during her husband’s tenure as Commissioner from the League’s inaugural season in 1988-89 through his retirement following the 1995-96 season.

Boudreau wins first championship

Fort Wayne head coach Ben Boudreau joins his dad Bruce as Kelly Cup champions. Ben has led Fort Wayne to a 60-40-13 regular-season record in two seasons as head coach, and a 9-4 mark in the 2021 Kelly Cup Playoffs, including a 6-1 record over its final seven postseason contests. Bruce coached the Mississippi SeaWolves to the Kelly Cup championship in 1999 before spending the next season-plus seasons with Lowell and Hershey in the American Hockey League, leading the Bears to a Calder Cup title in 2006. He went on to spend over 12 seasons in the National Hockey League as head coach for Washington, Anaheim and Minnesota.

John Brophy, a 2009 inductee into the ECHL Hall of Fame, is the ECHL all-time leader with three championships, leading Hampton Roads to Riley Cup titles in 1991 and 1992 and Kelly Cup championship in 1998. Five other coaches have won multiple ECHL championships: Chris McSorley won Riley Cup championships with Toledo in 1992 and 1993; John Marks, a 2012 ECHL Hall of Fame inductee, led Charlotte to the 1996 Riley Cup title and Greenville to the 2002 Kelly Cup championship; Mike Haviland won Kelly Cup titles with Atlantic City in 2003 and Trenton in 2005; Chuck Weber coached Kelly Cup winning teams in Cincinnati in 2008 and 2010 and Steve Martinson captured Kelly Cup titles with Allen in 2015 and 2016.

Vaive’s also join father/son championship club

Fort Wayne forward Justin Vaive won his first Kelly Cup championship, joining his dad Rick as ECHL champions. Rick was head coach for South Carolina when the Stingrays captured the inaugural Kelly Cup championship in 1997.

Komets are 15th Kelly Cup champion with home ice

Fort Wayne is the 15th team in 24 postseasons, and the seventh in the last eight playoff years, to win the Kelly Cup with home-ice advantage in the Finals. The other winners are Newfoundland (2019), Colorado (2017), Allen (2016), Allen (2015), Alaska (2014), Reading (2013), Alaska (2011), Cincinnati (2008), Idaho (2007), Alaska (2006), Greenville (2002), Peoria (2000), Mississippi (1999) and South Carolina (1997). Overall, 20 of the 32 ECHL champions have had home-ice advantage with Charlotte (1996), Richmond (1995), Toledo (1994) and Hampton Roads (1991 and 1992) capturing Riley Cup titles.

Celebration at home & on road

For the 15th time in ECHL history, the decisive game in the Finals was won at home. The other Kelly Cup winners who have clinched at home are Allen Newfoundland (2019), (2015 and 2016), Florida (2012), Cincinnati (2010 and 2008), Idaho (2004), Atlantic City (2003), South Carolina (2001), Peoria (2000) and Mississippi (1999), while the Riley Cup was clinched at home by Richmond (1995), Toledo (1993) and Hampton Roads (1991). 

The 17 winners on the road are: Colorado (2017 and 2018), Alaska (2014), Reading (2013), Alaska (2011), South Carolina (2009), Idaho (2007), Alaska (2006), Trenton (2005), Greenville (2002), Hampton Roads (1998) and South Carolina (1997). The Riley Cup was won on the road five times with Charlotte (1996), Toledo (1994), Hampton Roads (1992), Greensboro (1990) and Carolina (1989).

Kelly Cup championship banners in 12 states, one province

Twelve different states and one Canadian province have produced the 24 Kelly Cup champions. South Carolina (South Carolina Stingrays in 1997, 2001 and 2009 and Greenville in 2002) has produced four of the 22 winners of the Kelly Cup while Alaska (Alaska Aces in 2006, 2011 and 2014) has three championships. Colorado (Colorado Eagles in 2017 and 2018), Idaho (Idaho Steelheads in 2004 and 2007), New Jersey (Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies in 2003 and Trenton Titans in 2005), Ohio (Cincinnati Cyclones in 2008 and 2010) and Texas (Allen Americans in 2015 and 2016) all have two champions. The other seven champions have been from Florida (Florida Everblades – 2012), Illinois (Peoria Rivermen – 2000), Indiana (Fort Wayne Komets – 2021), Mississippi (Mississippi Sea Wolves – 1999), Newfoundland and Labrador (Newfoundland Growlers – 2019), Pennsylvania (Reading Royals – 2013) and Virginia (Hampton Roads Admirals – 1998).

ECHL champions from 14 states, one province

In the first 33 years of the ECHL, Ohio (Toledo Storm in 1993 and 1994 and Cincinnati Cyclones in 2008 and 2010), South Carolina (South Carolina Stingrays in 1997, 2001 and 2009 and Greenville in 2002) and Virginia (Hampton Roads Admirals in 1991, 1992 and 1998 and Richmond Renegades in 1995) have the most championships with four each. Alaska (Alaska Aces in 2006, 2011 and 2014) and North Carolina (Carolina Thunderbirds in 1989, Greensboro Monarchs in 1990 and Charlotte Checkers in 1996) both have three champions while Colorado (Colorado Eagles in 2017 and 2018), Idaho (Idaho Steelheads in 2004 and 2007), New Jersey (Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies in 2003 and Trenton Titans in 2005) and Texas (Allen Americans in 2015 and 2016) have two apiece. Florida (Florida Everblades in 2012), Illinois (Peoria Rivermen in 2000), Indiana (Fort Wayne Komets in 2021), Mississippi (Mississippi Sea Wolves in 1999), Newfoundland and Labrador (Newfoundland Growlers in 2019) and Pennsylvania (Reading Royals in 2013) each have one winner.

2021 Kelly Cup FinalsGame 1 – FORT WAYNE 7 at South Carolina 2Game 2 – Fort Wayne 2 at SOUTH CAROLINA 4Game 3 – South Carolina 4 at FORT WAYNE 6Game 4 – South Carolina 1 at FORT WAYNE 2

Kelly Cup Champions2021 – Fort Wayne defeated South Carolina, 3 games to 12020 – Playoffs canceled due to COVID-192019 – Newfoundland defeated Toledo, 4 games to 22018 – Colorado defeated Florida, 4 games to 32017 – Colorado defeated South Carolina, 4 games to 0 2016 – Allen defeated Wheeling, 4 games to 22015 – Allen defeated South Carolina, 4 games to 32014 – Alaska defeated Cincinnati, 4 games to 22013 – Reading defeated Stockton, 4 games to 12012 – Florida defeated Las Vegas, 4 games to 12011 – Alaska defeated Kalamazoo, 4 games to 12010 – Cincinnati defeated Idaho, 4 games to 12009 – South Carolina defeated Alaska, 4 games to 32008 – Cincinnati defeated Las Vegas, 4 games to 22007 – Idaho defeated Dayton, 4 games to 12006 – Alaska defeated Gwinnett, 4 games to 12005 – Trenton defeated Florida, 4 games to 22004 – Idaho defeated Florida, 4 games to 12003 – Atlantic City defeated Columbia, 4 games to 12002 – Greenville defeated Dayton, 4 games to 02001 – South Carolina defeated Trenton, 4 games to 12000 – Peoria defeated Louisiana, 4 games to 21999 – Mississippi defeated Richmond, 4 games to 31998 – Hampton Roads defeated Pensacola, 4 games to 21997 – South Carolina defeated Louisiana, 4 games to 1

Riley Cup Champions1996 – Charlotte defeated Jacksonville, 4 games to 01995 – Richmond defeated Greensboro, 4 games to 11994 – Toledo defeated Raleigh, 4 games to 11993 – Toledo defeated Wheeling, 4 games to 21992 – Hampton Roads defeated Louisville, 4 games to 01991 – Hampton Roads defeated Greensboro, 4 games to 11990 – Greensboro defeated Winston-Salem, 4 games to 11989 – Carolina defeated Johnstown, 4 games to 3

About the ECHL

Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 26 teams in 19 states and two Canadian provinces for its 33rd season in 2020-21. There have been 698 players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after starting their careers in the ECHL, including 20 who have made their NHL debuts in the 2020-21 season. The ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 31 NHL teams in 2020-21, marking the 24th consecutive season that the league had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. Further information on the ECHL is available on its website at ECHL.com as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

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