ECHL Conference Regular Season Champions Meet In Finals
ECHL Conference Regular Season Champions Meet In Finals
Tuesday, May. 23rd, 2006
PRINCETON, N.J. - The 2006 Kelly Cup Finals which will determine the national 'AA' champion open on Wednesday when the National Conference champion Alaska Aces host the American Conference champion Gwinnett (Georgia) Gladiators at 11:15 p.m. ET in Game 1 at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
Alaska hosts Game 2 at 11:15 p.m. ET on Thursday while Gwinnett will host Game 3 at 5:05 p.m. on Monday and Game 4 at 7:35 p.m. ET on May 31. Game 5, if necessary, is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. ET on June 1 at Gwinnett. Game 6, if necessary, would be played at 11:15 p.m. ET at Alaska on June 3 and Game 7, if necessary, would be played at 11:15 p.m. ET at Alaska on June 4.
Greatest Distance Ever Between ECHL Finalists
It is 4,396 miles from Duluth, Ga. to Anchorage, Alaska which is the greatest distance ever between two finals teams. It is not, however, the farthest distance between two playoff teams which is 4,444 miles, the distance from Anchorage to Trenton, N.J., home of the Titans who beat the Aces in the conference finals en route to the Kelly Cup title in 2005.
Since becoming a national league in 2003-04, the ECHL has crowned the Idaho (Boise) Steelheads as Kelly Cup Champion in 2004 and the Trenton (New Jersey) Titans in 2005. The conference finals in 2005 included Trenton meeting Alaska while the past two Kelly Cup Finals have included the Florida (Estero) Everblades.
Aces, Gladiators Combined For 103 Wins, 220 Points In Regular Season
Alaska led the league with 113 points (53-12-7), the second-highest point total in ECHL history. Gwinnett finished atop the American Conference and third overall with 107 points (50-15-7) and tied the sixth-highest point total in league history. The 53 wins by Alaska ties the record for second-most wins while Gwinnett became only the ninth team ever to win 50 games.
The Aces and Gladiators are only the second and third 100-point teams to reach the finals and it is the first time ever that two 100-point teams have met for the league title. The only Kelly Cup champion to have 100 points in the regular season is the South Carolina Stingrays in 1996-97. South Carolina is also the only team in ECHL history to win both the regular season and the postseason titles. The last team to reach the finals with 100 points was the Trenton Titans, who finished first in the league with 104 points in 2000-01, but lost in the finals to South Carolina.
Sellout Crowds Expected In Sullivan Arena For Finals
The Kelly Cup Finals in the past three years have had eight sellout crowds and have drawn over 72,000 fans and averaged almost 6,550 per game. The conference finals the past three years have had 11 sellouts and have drawn over 165,000 fans and averaged over 4,652 per game. Alaska has sold out all eight of its games in the conference finals each of the past two years, including five standing-room-only crowds of 6,451. Alaska has sold out its last seven games of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, tying its own league record for consecutive sellouts set in 2005 when the Aces reached the conference finals. Since joining the ECHL as an expansion team in 2003-04, the Aces have sold out 16 of their 20 postseason games, including 13 standing-room-only crowds of 6,451.
Second Time Ever That Conference Regular Season Champions Have Met
This is only the second time in ECHL history that the top regular season conference finishers have advanced to the finals. South Carolina, which finished atop the Southern Conference in 2000-01 with 100 points, beat Trenton, which finished first in the league and the Northern Conference with 104 points, in the Kelly Cup Finals in 2001. In 1992-93 when the ECHL had 15 teams and two divisions, Toledo finished first in the West Division and beat Wheeling, which finished atop the East Division, in the Riley Cup Finals.
Wide-Open Offense Of Gwinnett Meets Strong Defense Of Alaska
Gwinnett led the league with 114 power-play goals, the second-highest total in league history, and finished first on the power play with 24.1 percent. Alaska finished first with a penalty kill of 87.6 percent and tied for the fewest power-play goals allowed with 56. Gwinnett led the league with 304 goals and 4.22 goals per game while Alaska allowed a league-low 168 goals and led the league in goals-against average with 2.33 while ranking second in scoring with 289 goals and 4.01 goals per game. The Gladiators led the league with 2,682 shots and a 37.25 shots per game average while Alaska allowed a league-low 1,982 shots and 27.53 shots per game.
Aces, Gladiators Feature Many Of Regular Season Offensive Leaders
Alex Leavitt of Alaska was named Rookie of the Year after leading the ECHL with 65 assists and 91 points and tying for the league lead with 45 power-play points (11ppg-34ppa) in 72 games. Mike Scott of the Aces led the league with 19 power-play goals and was second with 87 points and fourth with 37 goals in 72 games. Jeff Campbell of Gwinnett was named the Most Valuable Player by league coaches and finished fifth with 53 assists and 83 points in 62 games.
Matt Underhill of Alaska was 36-10-3 and was named ECHL Goaltender of the Year after leading the league and tying the record for fourth-most wins in a season. Underhill tied for the league lead with five shutouts and tied for second with a goals-against average of 2.28. Chris Beckford-Tseu of Alaska was 16-1-2 with two shutouts, a goals-against average of 1.87 and a save percentage of .929 in 19 games with the Aces and 7-5-1 with a 3.10 goals-against average in 16 games with Peoria of the AHL while also serving as the backup goaltender for St. Louis of the NHL. Sean Fields of Gwinnett was 32-9-4 in 45 games, ranking fourth in the league in wins, tied for fifth with three shutouts and tied for 10th with a goals-against average of 2.75.
Guillaume Desbiens of Gwinnett tied for the rookie lead with 33 goals and tied for ninth in scoring with 60 points in 65 games while teammate Derek Nesbitt was fifth among rookies with 43 assists and 69 points in 71 games.
Ryan Gaucher of Alaska was named ECHL Defenseman of the Year after leading league defensemen with 45 assists and 60 points in 42 games while teammate Peter Metcalf led the league in plus-minus rating with +44 and was second among defensemen with 52 points and fourth with 39 assists. Troy Milam of Gwinnett was second among defensemen with 41 assists and tied for third with 48 points in 48 games.
Finals Have 12 NHL Contracted Players, Seven AHL Contracted Players
Alaska is the ECHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League and the Peoria Rivermen of the American Hockey League while Gwinnett is the ECHL affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL and the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. There are 12 players in the finals under contract to NHL teams as Alaska’s Patrick Weller, Troy Riddle, Doug Lynch, Chris Beckford-Tseu and D.J. King are all under contract to St. Louis and Gwinnett's Adam Berkhoel, Guillaume Desbiens, Jeff Dwyer, Lane Manson, Brad Schell, Adam Smyth and Joel Stepp are all under contract to the Thrashers. There are seven players in the finals who are under contract to AHL teams as Alaska's Cam Keith and Matt Underhill are under contract to Peoria while Ryan Gaucher is under contract to the Providence Bruins and Chris Minard is under contract to the Albany River Rats. Gwinnett's Troy Milam is under contract to Chicago while Adam Courchaine is under contract to the Houston Aeros and Milan Gajic is under contract to the Providence Bruins.
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.
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in three states, the ECHL welcomed new markets in Phoenix, Stockton and Utah in 2005-06 giving it 25 teams in 14 states and one Canadian province, stretching across five time zones. All 25 teams will return in 2006-07 and will be joined by the Texas Wildcatters and the Cincinnati Cyclones, who are both returning from voluntary suspension.
The ECHL is the top developmental league for both the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League. It has affiliations with 25 of the 30 teams in the NHL and 21 of the 27 teams in the AHL. There have been 303 former ECHL players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including 47 in 2005-06 surpassing the record 40 in 2003-04.
Each of the four remaining teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has a former ECHL player and a former ECHL coach ensuring that the league will be represented for a sixth straight year in 2006. There are nine former ECHL players whose names are on the Stanley Cup: Ruslan Fedotenko, Nolan Pratt and Andre Roy (Tampa Bay - 2004), Corey Schwab (New Jersey - 2003), Manny Legace (Detroit - 2002), David Aebischer and Nolan Pratt (Colorado - 2001), Krzysztof Oliwa (New Jersey - 2000) and Kevin Dean (New Jersey - 1995). The 2006 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs began with 171 former ECHL players and 14 former coaches and for the 17th consecutive year in 2006 the winner of the Calder Cup will have an ECHL player.
Kelly Cup Champions
2005 - Trenton defeated Florida, 4 games to 2
2004 - Idaho defeated Florida, 4 games to 1
2003 - Atlantic City defeated Columbia, 4 games to 1
2002 - Greenville defeated Dayton, 4 games to 0
2001 - South Carolina defeated Trenton, 4 games to 1
2000 - Peoria defeated Louisiana, 4 games to 2
1999 - Mississippi defeated Richmond, 4 games to 3
1998 - Hampton Roads defeated Pensacola, 4 games to 2
1997 - South Carolina defeated Louisiana, 4 games to 1
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