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Preview of 2023 Kelly Cup Finals

Thursday, June 1st
Preview of 2023 Kelly Cup Finals

Idaho, Florida to open 2023 Kelly Cup Finals on Saturday

Series Matchup Sheet // 2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs Bracket // Playoff LeadersDownload the 2023 Kelly Cup Finals Media GuideThe battle to determine the national “AA” hockey champion begins Saturday when the Western Conference champion Idaho Steelheads host the Eastern Conference champion Florida Everblades in Game 1 of the 2023 Kelly Cup Finals at 7:10 p.m. MT at Idaho Central Arena in Boise, Idaho.

Celebrating its 35th Season in 2022-23, 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 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 was 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 celebrates his 70th season in professional hockey in 2022-23, 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 Sunday at 4:10 p.m. MT at Idaho before the series shifts to Hertz Arena in Estero, Florida, where the Everblades will host Game 3 on Wednesday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET and Game 4 on Friday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Game 5, if necessary, would be at 7:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 10. The series would return to Idaho, if necessary, for Game 6 on Tuesday, June 13 at 7:10 p.m. MT and Game 7 on Wednesday, June 14 at 7:10 p.m. MT.

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.

Idaho is the ECHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars while Florida is the ECHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers.How they got here Idaho captured the Brabham Cup as ECHL regular-season champions on its way to setting league records for home wins (32), overall wins (58) and points (119). The Steelheads defeated Utah 4 games to 2 in the Mountain Division Semifinals and Allen 4 games to 1 in the Mountain Division Finals before dispatching Toledo 4 games to 1 in the Western Conference Finals.

Florida finished in fourth place in the South Division with a 38-25-9 record for 85 points. The Everblades defeated South Division regular-season champion South Carolina 4 games to 2 in the Division Semifinals and Jacksonville 4 games to 2 in the South Division Finals before eliminating Newfoundland 4 games to 2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

First-ever Finals rematch

Idaho and Florida previously met in the 2004 Kelly Cup Finals, making the 2023 Finals the first time in the ECHL’s 34 postseasons that teams who met in previous Finals series are matched up a second time. The Steelheads defeated the Everblades 4 games to 1 in 2004, capturing the Kelly Cup in their first ECHL season.

Everblades look for repeat championships

Florida captured the 2022 Kelly Cup title with a 4 games to 1 victory over Toledo, and has reached the Kelly Cup Finals for the sixth time in team history, tied with South Carolina for the most Finals appearances in ECHL history. The Everblades are seeking to become the fifth team in ECHL history to repeat as League champions (Hampton Roads, 1991 and 1992; Toledo, 1993 and 1994; Allen, 2015 and 2016; Colorado, 2017 and 2018).

Steelheads appearing in Kelly Cup Finals for fourth time

The Idaho Steelheads are appearing in the Kelly Cup Finals for the fourth time in club history, and the first in 13 seasons. Idaho advanced to the Finals three times in its first seven ECHL seasons, defeating Florida in five games in 2004 and Dayton in five games in 2007 before falling in five games to Cincinnati in 2010.

Winning team will capture third ECHL title

The winning team in the 2023 Kelly Cup Finals will capture their third ECHL title. Idaho has championships in 2004 and 2007 while Florida was victorious in 2012 and 2022. This year’s champion will tie Hampton Roads (1991, 1992 and 1998), South Carolina (1997, 2001 and 2009) and Alaska (2005, 2011 and 2014) for the most championships in ECHL history.

Success on the road

Winning games on the road has been a key to success for both Idaho and Florida through the first three rounds of the 2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs.

After dropping the first two games of the Mountain Division Semifinals on home ice to Utah, Idaho won the next four games of the series in overtime, including three straight on the road. The Steelheads won their only road game in the Mountain Division Finals against Allen before suffering their first road loss of the postseason in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at Toledo. Idaho rebounded to win the next two games in Toledo, improving to 6-1 on the road in the playoffs.

Florida’s success on the road dates back to last season’s championship run when the Everblades went 8-1 on the road, winning their final six games on enemy ice. This season, Florida is 7-2 on the road, including a 5-1 mark in the last two rounds. After falling at Newfoundland in overtime in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Everblades bounced back with a 5-2 win in Game 5 and a 3-2 double overtime victory in the series-clinching triumph in Game 6. Florida has outscored its opponents 30-18 in its nine road playoff games.

Working overtimeThe 2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs have seen 15 overtime games through three rounds. The record for overtime games in a single postseason is 26, which was set in the 2008 Kelly Cup Playoffs. Idaho is 4-0 in games that have gone beyond regulation in the postseason while Florida is 4-2.

Each of the Steelheads wins against Utah in the Mountain Division Semifinals came in overtime, marking the second time in ECHL postseason history (Idaho, 2019 Mountain Division Semifinals vs. Utah) that a team won four overtime games in a series.

The Everblades have had at least one overtime game in each of their three series. Florida went 2-0 in extra time against South Carolina, and dropped its only overtime game in the South Division Finals against Jacksonville. In the Eastern Conference Finals against Newfoundland, the Everblades picked up double overtime victories in both Game 2 and Game 6, with John McCarron scoring the game-winning goal in each victory. Florida fell in overtime to the Growlers in Game 4 of the series.

The four overtime wins for both teams in the 2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs is tied for the fourth-most in a single ECHL playoff year. Colorado holds the top two spots in league history, winning seven overtime games in 2018 and winning six times in the extra session in 2017.

Scoring leaders on both sides

Idaho is led in the playoffs by Wade Murphy, who leads all players in the postseason with 12 goals and 20 points. Owen Headrick is tied for the overall playoff lead with 15 assists, and his 18 points are tops among both rookies and defensemen.

Sean Josling paces Florida through three rounds with 15 points (8g-7a) while Tyler Irvine has scored a team-leading nine goals, which is tied for second in the playoffs. Ben Masella (2g-10a) and Stefan Leblanc (0g-12a) are tied for fourth among defensemen with 12 points while Oliver Chau is tied for second among rookies with six goals.

Between the pipes

Adam Scheel has played all but 10 minutes in the postseason for Idaho, ranking seventh with a 2.52 goals-against average and ninth with a .915 save percentage. Scheel shutout Allen in Game 5 of the Mountain Division Finals, and Toledo in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals, becoming the first goaltender in ECHL history to record three consecutive playoff shutouts. His shutout streak of 188:50 fell just 11:09 shy of the all-time ECHL postseason record, set by Mississippi’s Travis Scott in 1999.

For Florida, Cam Johnson has seen every minute of action in the postseason. The 2022 recipient of the June M. Kelly Playoffs Most Valuable Player Award, Johnson leads all goaltenders with 1,173 minutes played and 477 saves while ranking third with a 2.15 goals-against average and sixth with a .919 save percentage. Johnson’s seven career playoff shutouts are tied for second in ECHL history, just one behind the all-time leader Riley Gill.

Behind the Benches

Idaho’s Everett Sheen led the Steelheads to a record-breaking regular season, setting marks for most home wins, most overall wins, most points, and tying the record for fewest goals allowed in a season. He received the John Brophy Award as ECHL Coach of the Year and earned the right to coach in the 2023 Warrior/ECHL All-Star Classic.

Florida’s Brad Ralph, who led the Everblades to the 2022 Kelly Cup title, is the ECHL all-time leader in playoff games coached (126) and wins (75). In his ECHL tenure with Idaho and Florida, Ralph has an overall record of 446-191-66 for a .681 career winning percentage. He ranks sixth in ECHL regular-season history in wins and winning percentage, while ranking 10th with 703 games coached.

Name already on Kelly Cup

Nine players, plus two coaches, on Florida were part of the Everblades’ 2022 championship team: Cam Johnson, Lukas Kälble, Levko Koper, Stefan Leblanc, Ben Masella, John McCarron, Kyle Neuber, Joe Pendenza, Blake Winiecki, Head Coach Brad Ralph and Assistant Coach Jesse Kallechy. Neuber was also a part of Allen’s championship in 2016. Idaho’s Matt Register has been on three Kelly Cup winning teams (Allen in 2016 and Colorado in 2017 and 2018), and is one of just six individuals to have his name engraved on the Kelly Cup three times.

Players returning to Finals

Florida’s McCarron and Neuber, along with Ralph, were a part of Florida’s 2018 team which reached the Kelly Cup Finals while McCarron also participated in the 2016 Finals with Wheeling. In addition to his three championships, Register also reached the Finals with Toledo in 2019.

Register, McCarron among all-time Playoff leaders

Idaho defenseman Matt Register is the ECHL all-time career postseason leader in games played (141) and assists (84) while ranking second in points (110). He is second all-time in Riley/Kelly Cup Finals history with 14 assists and is third with 19 points. Register is the only defensemen to have been named Most Valuable Player of the Playoffs, doing so with Colorado in 2017.

Florida forward John McCarron ranks second in ECHL postseason history with 112 career games played, tied for third with 38 goals, fifth with 61 assists and fourth with 99 points.

FloHockey broadcasts Kelly Cup Finals For the 19th year in a row every game of the Kelly Cup Finals will be available online, through FloHockey.

2023 Kelly Cup Finals Schedule

Game 1 – Saturday, June 3 at 7:10 p.m. MT at Idaho Central Arena in Boise, IdahoGame 2 – Sunday, June 4 at 4:10 p.m. MT at Idaho Central Arena in Boise, IdahoGame 3 – Wednesday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Hertz Arena in Estero, FloridaGame 4 – Friday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Hertz Arena in Estero, FloridaGame 5 – Saturday, June 10 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Hertz Arena in Estero, Florida *Game 6 – Tuesday, June 13 at 7:10 p.m. MT at Idaho Central Arena in Boise, Idaho *Game 7 – Wednesday, June 14 at 7:10 p.m. MT at Idaho Central Arena in Boise, Idaho *

            * - If Necessary

Kelly Cup Champions2022 – Florida defeated Toledo, 4 games to 12021 – Fort Wayne defeated South Carolina, 3 games to 12020 – Playoffs were 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 02016 – 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 1Riley 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

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