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2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs

ECHL Western Conference Final: Idaho Steelheads vs. Toledo Walleye

ECHL Western Conference Final: Idaho Steelheads vs. Toledo Walleye

BOISE, Idaho – For the first time ever, the Idaho Steelheads take on the Toledo Walleye in the ECHL’s Western Conference Final.  Not only have these teams never faced each other in the conference final, they’ve never even met in the playoffs before 2023, though neither is a stranger to the postseason.

Both have been contenders rather consistently over the years, though Idaho failed to see playoff action in 2022.  Toledo has made a long run for the Kelly Cup in its last two postseasons, first falling to the Newfoundland Growlers in 2019 and then to the Florida Everblades a year ago.  For those who don’t remember, the 2020 postseason was cancelled due to COVID-19, and neither team competed in the 2020-21 season.

As for the Kelly Cup, the Steelheads have not won a championship since 2007 (they also won the Cup in 2004).  As for the Walleye, they’ve never won the Kelly Cup, though a Toledo team did earn a championship in its former name, the Riley Cup.  The Toledo Storm won the Riley Cup in consecutive seasons, 1994 and 1995.

Final Regular Season Records

Idaho: 58-11-1-2, 119 points (1st in Mountain Division, 1st in Western Conference, 1st in ECHL)
Toledo: 45-19-5-3, 98 points (2nd in Central Division, 3rd in Western Conference, 3rd 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
Toledo: Defeated Indy Fuel 4-0 in Central Division Semifinals; defeated Cincinnati Cyclones 4-0 in Central Division Final

Series Schedule

Game 1: Saturday, May 20 – Toledo at IDAHO – 7:10 pm MT
Game 2: Sunday, May 21 – Toledo at IDAHO – 4:10 pm MT
Game 3: Wednesday, May 24 – Idaho at TOLEDO – 7:15 pm ET
Game 4: Friday, May 26 – Idaho at TOLEDO – 7:15 pm ET
*Game 5: Saturday, May 27 – Idaho at TOLEDO – 7:15 pm ET
*Game 6: Tuesday, May 30 – Toledo at IDAHO – 7:10 pm MT
*Game 7: Wednesday, May 31 – Toledo at IDAHO – 7:10 pm MT
*If Necessary

Season Series Recap

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

How Idaho Wins

Stay out of the penalty box.  The Steelheads had one of the league’s best PK units during the regular season (84.1%), but for whatever reason that has not continued into the postseason.  At only 78%, it is no match for Toledo’s lethal power play, coming in at an astonishing 39.5%.

The Walleye have heavily outscored their opponents in the playoffs (17-7 against the Fuel, 22-7 against the Cyclones).  Meanwhile, Idaho equaled Utah (17-17) but heavily outscored Allen 28-16.  To defeat Toledo’s potent offense, Idaho will either have to shut it down or score a ton of goals.

Netminder Adam Scheel is the likely starter for Idaho.  By far the ECHL’s best goalie in the regular season, Scheel boasted a 28-8-0-1 record, with a 1.97 goals-against average and 0.932 save percentage.  Though his numbers are not nearly as outstanding in the postseason (2.84 GAA, 0.904 save percentage), Scheel is still reliable with a 8-3 record.

How Toledo Wins

Mostly, just continue being postseason Toledo.  The Walleye are undefeated in these playoffs, and everything seems to be clicking.  The power play is a phenomenal 39.5%, and the penalty kill is just as impressive (91.3%).  Toledo is getting contributions from nearly everyone; of the five skaters held pointless thus far, only two have seen game action.  Throughout the first two rounds, Head Coach Dan Watson has opted to alternate goaltenders Sebastian Cossa and John Lethemon, giving both men plenty of rest, and it has worked beautifully.

Watch out for Idaho’s defensemen, three of whom had a 50+ point regular season.  Owen Headrick (15 goals, 39 assists), Matt Register (nine goals, 43 assists), and Patrick Kudla (eight goals, 42 assists) were some of the league’s top point-producers on the blue line.  Register and Cody Haiskanen led the league in +/- rating, both at +53.  Headrick (+35) and Kudla (+33) rounded out the top four defensemen.  Headrick, Register, and Kudla have continued their success in the playoffs as well, and all three are in the top ten in points for defensemen.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!

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

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