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2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs

ECHL Kelly Cup Final: Idaho Steelheads vs. Florida Everblades

ECHL Kelly Cup Final: Idaho Steelheads vs. Florida Everblades

BOISE, Idaho – The top team in the league, the Idaho Steelheads, are set to begin their best-of-seven Kelly Cup Final series against the top underdog in the league, the Florida Everblades.  The Steelheads are looking for a repeat of their 2004 quest for the Cup, in which they defeated the Everblades in five games.  Florida, on the other hand, is looking for a repeat of last season’s success, a five-game defeat of the Toledo Walleye, and maybe some payback after that 2004 series.

Since the league’s championship trophy became the Kelly Cup in the 1996-97 season, the Steelheads have appeared in the Cup Final three times, the Everblades five.  Both teams have won the championship twice, Idaho in 2004 and 2007, Florida in 2012 and 2022.  Nine players are returning from Florida’s 2022 championship team, including captain Ben Masella and alternate captains Blake Winiecki and Joe Pendenza.  Unsurprisingly, no one remains from Idaho’s last championship roster.

The Steelheads stumbled a bit out of the gate this postseason, dropping their opening two games to the Utah Grizzlies before steamrolling their way into the final round.  The Everblades, the lower-seeded team in every one of their series, have flourished as the underdog, taking every series 4-2.

Final Regular Season Records

Idaho: 58-11-1-2, 119 points (1st in Mountain Division, 1st in Western Conference, 1st in ECHL)
Florida: 38-25-4-5, 85 points (4th in South Division, 7th in Eastern Conference, 11th in ECHL)

How They Got Here

Idaho: Defeated Utah Grizzlies 4-2 in Mountain Division Semifinals; defeated Allen Americans 4-1 in Mountain Division Final; defeated Toledo Walleye 4-1 in Western Conference Final
Florida: Defeated South Carolina Stingrays 4-2 in South Division Semifinals; defeated Jacksonville Icemen 4-2 in South Division Final; defeated Newfoundland Growlers 4-2 in Eastern Conference Final

Series Schedule

Game 1: Saturday, June 3 – Florida at IDAHO – 7:10 pm MT
Game 2: Sunday, June 4 – Florida at IDAHO – 4:10 pm MT
Game 3: Wednesday, June 7 – Idaho at FLORIDA – 7:30 pm ET
Game 4: Friday, June 9 – Idaho at FLORIDA – 7:30 pm ET
*Game 5: Saturday, June 10 – Idaho at FLORIDA – 7:00 pm ET
*Game 6: Tuesday, June 13 – Florida at IDAHO – 7:10 pm MT
*Game 7: Wednesday, June 14 – Florida at IDAHO – 7:10 pm MT
*If Necessary

Season Series Recap

Idaho and Florida did not face each other in the 2022-23 regular season.

How Idaho Wins

Play more like the team that beat the previously undefeated Walleye and less like the team that was unable to defeat the fourth-seeded Grizzlies in regulation.  In the opening round, the Grizzlies won the first two games, both in Boise, and took the Steelheads into overtime in the remaining four games.  This was the same Steelheads team who had 58 wins during the regular season.  Idaho regrouped and defeated the Allen Americans in five games before going on to eliminate the Walleye, who had swept both the Indy Fuel and the higher-seeded Cincinnati Cyclones.

Find a way to shake goaltender Cam Johnson‘s confidence.  He has been Florida’s go-to guy the past two seasons and has been reliable for the Everblades, both in the regular season and postseason.  In the 2022 playoffs, Johnson boasted a 15-2-1 record, with a 1.90 goals-against average and 0.931 save percentage.  This postseason the netminder’s numbers have decreased a bit (12-4-2 record, 2.15 GAA, 0.919 save percentage), but he’s still in the top three.  Johnson thrives in the spotlight and under pressure, so the Steelheads will have to find a way to shut that down.

How Florida Wins

Shut down Idaho’s potent offense.  Nearly everyone is producing on the scoresheet; only one skater has been held pointless this postseason (rookie defenseman Demetrios Koumontzis, who has only played three games).  Forward Wade Murphy currently leads the league with 20 points (12 goals, eight assists) in the playoffs, and Owen Headrick leads all defensemen with 18 points (three goals, 15 assists).

Florida needs to improve on the power play.  The Everblades had a measly 14.9 power play percentage during the regular season, and although improved in the playoffs, they have still only converted on 19.7% of their power plays.  In comparison, the Steelheads are at 26.1%.  Florida has the better penalty kill at 80.6% (vs. Idaho’s 78.2%), but that alone won’t bail the Everblades out of this series; everything needs to be clicking.

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    Carrie Roberts covers the Adirondack Thunder for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with her on Twitter @FPHAdkThunder.

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