PRINCETON, N.J. – The Idaho Steelheads won their second Kelly Cup Championship on Thursday beating Dayton 4-1 in Game 5 at the Nutter Center in Ohio.
Idaho becomes the fourth team to win two ECHL championships and the second to win the Kelly Cup twice. Hampton Roads won three championships capturing the Riley Cup, presented to the ECHL champion from 1989-96, in 1991 and 1992 and the Kelly Cup in 1998. South Carolina won the Kelly Cup in 1997 and 2001 and Toledo won the Riley Cup in 1993 and 1994.
Idaho reached the Kelly Cup Finals and beat Florida in five games to win the first-ever national ‘AA’ title in 2004, becoming only the second expansion team in history to win the ECHL title, joining the Greensboro Monarchs who beat Winston-Salem in 1990. The Steelheads are 33-18 all-time in the Kelly Cup Playoffs and lead the ECHL postseason with a .647 winning percentage.
Since becoming a national league in 2003-04, the ECHL has seen the Kelly Cup Champion come from Idaho in 2007 and 2004, Alaska in 2006 and New Jersey in 2005. The coast-to-coast league had 25 teams in 15 states and British Columbia, Canada in 2006-07 and will celebrate its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08 with 25 teams playing in 17 states and British Columbia.
Never missing the Kelly Cup Playoffs in its first four seasons, Idaho was 42-24-6 and finished fourth in the National Conference and sixth in the league with 90 points. After a 2-1 loss in Game 1 at home, Idaho won the next four games outscoring the Bombers 15-6. The Steelheads won 5-2 in Game 2 at home and 4-2 in Game 3 at Dayton. Idaho won 2-1 in double overtime in Game 4, the second-longest Finals game in history at 94:20, and clinched the series with a 4-1 win in Game 5. Idaho won its last five road games to finish 9-2 on the road in 2007 and improve to 18-8 all-time for a .818 road winning percentage, which is second-highest in league history.
After defeating fifth-seed Stockton in six games in the quarterfinals, Idaho upset Las Vegas, which finished first in the ECHL at 46-12-14 and 106 points, in six games in the semifinals. After ending Las Vegas’ ECHL record 18-game winning streak with a 4-1 win in Game 2, the Steelheads won 4-2 in Game 3, the first back-to-back regulation losses for Las Vegas since Dec. 16 and 18. The Steelheads won Game 4 to become the first team since Alaska in the Kelly Cup Playoffs a year ago to win three in a row against Las Vegas. The Steelheads upset defending Kelly Cup Champion Alaska in five games including a 1-0 road win in Game 1 and a 3-2 overtime win in Game 2 at Alaska.
Steve Silverthorn of Idaho was named Most Valuable Player of the Kelly Cup Playoffs after going 16-6 with three shutouts, a goals-against average of 1.77 and a save percentage of .931 while playing all but 11:43 of Idaho’s 22 games in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. He set ECHL postseason records for wins and minutes (1,388) while tying for the second-most shutouts and finishing with the fifth-lowest goals-against average. Dayton’s Adam Berkhoel finished with the second-most minutes in ECHL history with 1,385. Silverthorn was 4-1 and finished with the second-lowest goals-against average in the Finals with 1.44 while his save percentage of .945 tied for the second-best in the Finals.
Idaho’s Derek Laxdal becomes the 12th coach to win the ECHL championship in his first Finals appearance while Idaho left wings Scott Burt and Lance Galbraith and defenseman Darrell Hay each will have their name engraved on the Kelly Cup for a second time. The three members of the Steelheads championship team in 2004 will bring the number of players and coaches to have their name engraved on the Kelly Cup twice to 15.
Galbraith led the Kelly Cup Playoffs with 16 assists and 27 points in 21 games while Idaho captain Marty Flichel tied for second with 13 assists and was third with 22 points in 22 games. Steelheads rookie Lars Helminen led all defensemen with 13 assists and his 16 points in 22 games tied him for the defensive scoring lead with Dayton rookie Brad Farynuk (4g-12a).
Idaho rookie Greg Rallo scored three goals, including two on the power play, in Game 2 tying the record for second-most goals and power-play goals in a Finals game. Derek Nesbitt of the Steelheads had three assists in Game 2 to tie the record for second-most assists in a Finals game which was equaled in Game 3 by Galbraith.
The Steelheads are the fourth team to win the ECHL title after not finishing in the Top Five in the regular season standings, having finished sixth overall with 90 points (42-24-6). Trenton won the Kelly Cup after finishing sixth overall in 2004-05 and Idaho won after finishing 11th overall in 2003-04. Hampton Roads finished 19th and qualified for the postseason on the last day of the 1997–98 regular season before winning the Kelly Cup. Alaska in 2005-06 and South Carolina in 1996-97 are the only teams in 18 years to finish first in the regular season and win the postseason.
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.
B2 Networks, which is the “Official Broadband Broadcast Provider of the ECHL”, broadcast every game in the Kelly Cup Finals live for the fourth year in a row. B2 Networks has broadcast ECHL games the past four seasons including the 2007 ECHL All-Star Game.
Game 5 was also carried live by XM Satellite Radio, the nation’s leading satellite radio service. In addition to its coverage of the Kelly Cup Finals, XM Radio has carried the ECHL All-Star Game live each of the past two years and regularly features the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League on “Hockey This Morning” with Scott Laughlin heard each weekday morning on HOME ICE XM 204.
Kelly Cup Champions – Here is a complete list of Kelly Cup Champions:
2007 – Idaho defeated Dayton, 4 games to 1
2006 – Alaska defeated Gwinnett, 4 games to 1
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
The league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in three states and has grown to be a coast-to-coast league that will have 25 teams playing in 17 states and British Columbia in 2007-08, including the Mississippi (Biloxi) Sea Wolves, who return after missing two seasons in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Opening Day for the 20th Anniversary Season will be Oct. 18 when the Johnstown Chiefs host the Wheeling Nailers at Cambria County War Memorial. The game is a rematch of Game 7 from the first-ever ECHL Finals played in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Cambria County War Memorial. The two teams will wear throwback jerseys for the Opening Day game that begins at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast worldwide on B2 Networks, the “Official Broadband Broadcast Provider of the ECHL”. The remaining teams will open their seasons the weekend of Oct. 19-21.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2006-07, marking the 10th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
There have been 329 former ECHL players who have gone on to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including a record 47 in 2005-06 and 26 in 2006-07. There have been 184 former ECHL players who have played their first game in the NHL in the past five seasons and 107 former ECHL players have skated in the NHL this season. More than 100 players under contract to NHL teams have played in the ECHL this season.
The ECHL was represented for the sixth consecutive year on the National Hockey League championship team in 2006, including Carolina Hurricanes head coach Peter Laviolette, who is the first ECHL coach to win the Stanley Cup.
The ECHL has affiliations with 24 of the 27 teams in the American Hockey League in 2006-07 and for the past 17 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup champion. In each of the last two seasons there have been more than 225 players who have played in both the ECHL and the AHL and there were over 800 call-ups involving more than 500 players.
In the last five seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,000 call-ups involving more than 1,000 players since 2002-03.
Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.