ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs Final Four Features Cincinnati, Las Vegas, South Carolina, Ut
ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs Final Four Features Cincinnati, Las Vegas, South Carolina, Ut
Thursday, May. 8th, 2008
Cyclones, Grizzlies, Stingrays, Wranglers Battle For ‘AA’ National Title
PRINCETON, N.J. – The 2008 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs is down to the final four teams competing for the ‘AA’ National Championship with the Cincinnati Cyclones, the Las Vegas Wranglers, the South Carolina Stingrays and the Utah Grizzlies.
Celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08, the ECHL is the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League and the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
The American Conference Finals will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday when the North Division champion Cyclones host the South Division champion Stingrays in Game 1 of a best-of-seven series at the U.S. Bank Arena.
The National Conference Finals will begin at 7:05 p.m. PT on Monday when Las Vegas hosts Utah in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series at the Orleans Arena.
The winners will advance to Finals to compete for the Kelly Cup, the championship trophy named in honor of Patrick J. Kelly, who was one of the founding fathers of the ECHL. One of the inaugural inductees 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 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.
Conference Finals Shine National Spotlight On Cities
The Kelly Cup Playoffs will bring national attention and focus to Cincinnati, Las Vegas, North Charleston, S.C. and West Valley City, Utah. It is the first time since becoming a coast-to-coast league that the conference finals have been in Nevada, South Carolina and Utah after previously being hosted in Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It is not, however, the first time that the conference finals have been in South Carolina as the Stingrays are making their third trip to the conference finals. The Stingrays won in each of their previous trips to the conference finals in 1997 and 2001, going on to win the Kelly Cup both times. This year’s conference finals will be played across three time zones with Eastern (Cincinnati and South Carolina), Mountain (Utah) and Pacific (Las Vegas).
The Kelly Cup champions the last four years have come from Alaska (Aces in 2006), Idaho (Steelheads in 2004 and 2007) and New Jersey (Trenton Titans in 2005) while the runner-ups have come from Florida (Everblades in 2004 and 2005), Georgia (Gwinnett Gladiators in 2006) and Ohio (Dayton in 2007). The 4,396 miles from Duluth, Ga. to Anchorage, Alaska was the greatest distance ever between two teams in the Kelly Cup Finals. It was 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.
Conference Finals Feature 19 NHL Contracted Players
The NHL affiliates of the four teams competing will be keeping a watchful eye on the conference finals to monitor their prospects. The Cyclones are the ECHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens and the Nashville Predators while the Stingrays are the affiliate of the Washington Capitals, who are coached by Bruce Boudreau who was head coach of Mississippi when it won the Kelly Cup in 1999. The Wranglers are the ECHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames while the Grizzlies are the ECHL affiliate of the New York Islanders.
The playoff rosters submitted by the 21 teams for the Kelly Cup Playoffs had 86 players on NHL contracts and 73 players on AHL contracts. The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 teams in the NHL in 2007-08, marking the 11th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
There have been 355 former ECHL players who have gone on to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including 99 in the last three seasons. There have been 210 former ECHL players who have played their first game in the NHL in the past seven seasons.
Cincinnati players under NHL contract to Montreal are forwards Mathieu Aubin, Jimmy Bonneau and Ryan Russell while forward Ryan Maki is under NHL contract to Nashville. Forward Olivier Latendresse is under NHL contract to the Phoenix Coyotes, who assigned him to the Cyclones. Cincinnati also has players who are under contract to Hamilton, which is the AHL affiliate of Montreal, and Milwaukee, which is the AHL affiliate of Nashville. Under contract to Hamilton are defensemen Jon Gleed and Conrad Martin, goaltender Cedrick Desjardins, and forwards Thomas Beauregard and David Desharnais while goaltender Maxime Daigneault and defenseman Bryan Schmidt are under contract to Milwaukee.
South Carolina players under NHL contract to Washington are defensemen Sean Collins, Patrick McNeill and Sasha Pokulok, center Travis Morin, right wings Andrew Gordon, Steve Pinizzotto and Stephen Werner. The Capitals selected Pokulok 14th overall in the first round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The Stingrays also have right wing Marty Guerin and defenseman Grant McNeill, who are under contract to Hershey, which is the AHL affiliate of Washington.
Utah players under NHL contract to New York are defenseman Andrew MacDonald and goaltender Michael Mole, who served as a backup for the Islanders for three games at the end of the regular season. The Grizzlies also have defensemen Jeff Dwyer and Jordan Hart and forwards Justin Bourne, Christian Gaudet, Micheal Haley, Tyler Haskins, Keith Johnson and Olivier Labelle, who are all under contract to Bridgeport, which is the AHL affiliate of the Islanders.
Las Vegas players under NHL contract to Calgary are forward Aki Seitsonen, right wing Adam Cracknell, left wing Ryan Donally and goaltender Kevin Lalande. Goaltender Daniel Manzato is under NHL contract to the Carolina Hurricanes, who assigned him to the Wranglers. Las Vegas also has defenseman Gerry Burke, who is under contract to Quad City, which is the AHL affiliate of the Flames. Other AHL-contracted players assigned to the Wranglers are defenseman Jason Jozsa from Grand Rapids, center Curtis Fraser from San Antonio and defenseman Tyson Strachan from Peoria.
Crombeen Wins 2007 Kelly Cup, Battles For Stanley Cup In 2008
After helping the Idaho Steelheads capture the Kelly Cup in 2007, B.J. Crombeen is now battling for the Stanley Cup in the NHL Playoffs with the Dallas Stars. Crombeen can become the first player to have his name engraved on both the Kelly Cup and the Stanley Cup.
Other former ECHL players who are still playing in the NHL conference finals are Krys Barch of Dallas, Martin Biron of Philadelphia, Aaron Downey of Detroit and Dany Sabourin of Pittsburgh.
The ECHL had a representative on all 16 teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 34 former players and six former coaches. It is the third consecutive season that there have been more than 30 former ECHL players in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the fifth year in a row that more than 25 players with ECHL experience have played in the NHL postseason.
The ECHL has been represented on the last seven Stanley Cup champions including 2007 by Anaheim assistant head coach Dave Farrish, players Francois Beauchemin and George Parros and broadcasters John Ahlers and Steve Carroll.
There are 13 former ECHL players whose names are on the Stanley Cup: Francois Beauchemin and George Parros (Anaheim – 2007), Chad LaRose and Andrew Hutchinson (Carolina - 2006), 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). Pratt is the only ECHL player to have his name engraved twice on the Stanley Cup.
Cyclones’ Record-Setting Season Continues
Cincinnati is the top seed in the Kelly Cup Playoffs after finishing 55-12-5 to capture the Brabham Cup with 115 points. The Cyclones 115 points and 55 wins are the second-most in the 20-year history of the ECHL behind Louisiana’s 116 points and 56 wins in 2001-02.
The Cyclones have won 63 games in the regular season and postseason, the second-most in league history behind Alaska which won 69 games when it won the Kelly Cup in 2006. The only other teams to reach 60 wins are Gwinnett, which had 61 wins when it finished second in 2006, and Trenton, which had 61 wins when it lost in the Kelly Cup Finals to South Carolina in 2001.
Cincinnati set the ECHL record with 17 wins in a row from Jan. 16-Feb. 29, breaking the record of 14 by Knoxville from Dec. 28, 1993-Jan. 29, 1994 and Louisiana from Nov. 23-Dec. 22, 2001. Cincinnati also had an ECHL season-high and team-record 14-game home winning streak from Jan. 5-Mar. 12. The Cyclones tied the ECHL record with 26 road wins while their 29 home wins tied the league record for fourth-most held by Pee Dee in 1998-99, Toledo in 2002-03 and Gwinnett in 2005-06 and their 12 regulation losses ties the record for third-fewest losses held by Alaska in 2005-06 and Las Vegas in 2006-07. Cincinnati had four home losses tying the record for third-fewest shared by nine teams including Gwinnett and Alaska in 2005-06.
Stingrays Chasing ECHL History
South Carolina is trying to become the first three-time winner of the Kelly Cup having won the trophy the first year it was awarded in 1997 and becoming the first two-time winner in 2001. The Stingrays were the first team in history to win both the Brabham Cup, the trophy awarded to the regular season champion, and the Kelly Cup in the same season in 1996-97.
South Carolina is making its league record 14th postseason appearance after missing the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the first time ever last season. The Stingrays hold the league postseason records for games with 111, wins with 60 and home wins with 40.
South Carolina had to win three decisive Game 5s to advance to the conference finals, including beating Columbia in the division finals. The Stingrays had to play 10 games in 14 days to reach the division finals, winning three games in a row to beat Augusta in five games in the opening round and then beating Gwinnett in five games in the second round.
Century Mark Becoming Norm For Wranglers
Las Vegas is the first team in the 20-year history of the ECHL to score 100 points in three consecutive seasons after having 112 points in 2005-06 and 106 points in 2006-07 when they won the league regular season title. The Wranglers are the top seed in the National Conference for the second straight year after going 47-13-12 and finishing first in the conference regular season standings and third overall in the league with 106 points.
Glen Gulutzan has been head coach of the Wranglers since the team joined the ECHL in 2003-04 and he has a career regular season record of 220-93-47 (.676 winning percentage) and a postseason record of 22-17 (.564 winning percentage). He was named ECHL Coach of the Year in 2005-06 after Las Vegas finished second in the league with 112 points and a 53-13-6 record, setting team records with 53 wins, 28 home wins and 25 road wins. He has been selected to coach the National Conference in each of the last three ECHL All-Star Games, tying him for the most selections.
Grizzlies Continue Beehive State’s Hockey Tradition
The Grizzlies trip to the conference finals is just the latest chapter of playoff success in Utah which has been home to six championship hockey teams since 1975. The Salt Lake Golden Eagles won the Central Hockey League championship in 1975, 1980 and 1981 and captured the International Hockey League title in 1987 and 1988. The Grizzlies competed in the IHL from 1995-2001 and won the championship in 1996. This year’s meeting between Utah and Las Vegas is actually a rematch of the IHL conference finals in 1996 where the Grizzlies defeated the Thunder.
Utah plays their home games in West Valley City at the E-Center which received worldwide exposure when it served as the host venue for ice hockey during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Jason Christie has been head coach of the Grizzlies since the team joined the league in 2005-06 after coaching Peoria in the ECHL for five years from 2000-01. Christie has a career regular season record of 307-203-66 (.590 winning percentage) and is sixth all-time in career wins. He has led his teams to the Kelly Cup Playoffs six times and he has a career postseason record of 24-22 (.522 winning percentage). Christie was selected to coach in the ECHL All-Star Game in his first season in 2000-01 and returned behind the bench in 2003-04. He played his last 10 professional seasons in the ECHL with Peoria and led the Rivermen to the Kelly Cup Championship in 2000, earning Co-Most Valuable Player honors.
Kevin Colley helped Atlantic City win the Kelly Cup in 2003 while Grizzlies left wing Scott Burt is one of 13 players/coaches to have his name engraved twice on the trophy, winning in 2007 and 2004 with Idaho. Utah defensemen Jeff Dwyer and Ian Forbes both have played in the Kelly Cup Finals with Gwinnett in 2006 and Florida in 2004, respectively, while Las Vegas defenseman Sean Owens played for Columbia in the Kelly Cup Finals in 2003.
B2 Networks, NHL Network Broadcast Kelly Cup Playoffs
The NHL Network has featured the Kelly Cup Playoffs each of the past five years, including televising the Kelly Cup Finals each of the past four years. NHL Network has presented the “ECHL Game of the Week” and has carried the ECHL All-Star Game telecast live each of the last six years.
Every game of the 2008 Kelly Cup Playoffs Conference Finals will be available on B2 Networks, the “Official Broadband Broadcast Provider of the ECHL.” It marks the fifth year in a row that fans around the globe have been able to follow every postseason game on B2 Networks, which launched the B2 Triangulation Interactive Player for the 2008 Kelly Cup Playoffs.
In addition to broadcasting ECHL games the past five seasons, B2 Networks has also broadcast the last two ECHL All-Star Games as well as every game of the conference finals and the Kelly Cup Finals each of the past four years. The first hockey game broadcast by B2 Networks was the Las Vegas Wranglers in February 2004 and the first hockey championship carried by B2 Networks was the 2004 Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Kelly Cup Playoffs Produce Alaska’s Greatest Sports Moment
Alaska’s run to the Conference Finals in 2005 was chosen as the “Greatest Team Sports Moment In Alaska History” in an online poll by The Anchorage Daily News: Alaska’s Newspaper. The Aces had more than six times the number of votes received by the second-place finisher – “Libby Riddles Becoming First Woman To Win The Iditarod In 1985,” and the team was honored by the City of Anchorage with “Alaska Aces Pride Day”.
American Conference Finals (Best-of-Seven)
Cincinnati Cyclones (55-12-5) vs. South Carolina Stingrays (47-22-3)
Game 1 – May 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Cincinnati
Game 2 – May 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Cincinnati
Game 3 – May 14 at 7:05 p.m. at South Carolina
Game 4 – May 16 at 7:05 p.m. at South Carolina
Game 5 – May 17 at 7:05 p.m. at South Carolina (if necessary)
Game 6 – May 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Cincinnati (if necessary)
Game 7 – May 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Cincinnati (if necessary)
National Conference Finals (Best-of-Seven)
#1 Las Vegas Wranglers (47-13-12) vs. #6 Utah Grizzlies (32-30-10)
Game 1 – May 12 at 7:05 p.m. at Las Vegas
Game 2 – May 13 at 7:05 p.m. at Las Vegas
Game 3 – May 15 at 7:05 p.m. at Utah
Game 4 – May 16 at 7:05 p.m. at Utah
Game 5 – May 18 at 4 p.m. at Utah (if necessary)
Game 6 – May 20 at 7:05 p.m. at Las Vegas (if necessary)
Game 7 – May 21 at 8:05 p.m. at Las Vegas (if necessary)
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