I am about to head to Canada (Ontario) on my annual fishing trip where for a week we will be off the grid and the daily agenda is very simple. Sleep, eat, fish, eat, nap, fish, eat and repeat. I am the camp cook and I have four different recipes for all of the walleye we will catch from fried Walleye, to Parmesan broiled walleye to tented baked walleye with vegetables to a seafood chowder with walleye, clams and shrimp for the cold rainy days. You can only bring four walleye each back home but you can eat 20 per day (four walleye times five fishermen) so lots of fish meals.
– The Kelly Cup finals won’t be set until tomorrow (Wednesday) night when Tulsa and Toledo meet in game seven of the Western Conference finals. The Oilers went into a sold out (7542) Huntington Center last night and beat the Walleye 4-2 to force a game seven which will be in Tulsa. There have been just two seven game series in the 2019 Kelly Cup playoffs with both involving Tulsa. In the opening round the Oilers beat Kansas City in game seven (at home) after falling behind in the series 3-2. Can Tulsa use home ice advantage to advance to the Kelly Cup finals and bring a fifth straight championship to the Mountain Division?
– Awaiting in the wings are the Newfoundland Growlers who clinched the Eastern Conference championship on Saturday. It is already a given that Newfoundland will have home ice advantage in the Kelly Cup finals because they finished #3 during the regular season and are the highest ranked team remaining. Games one and two of the finals will be in Newfoundland on Saturday and Sunday. It will be the classic case of rest or rust as the Growlers will go a week between games while the winner of Tulsa vs Toledo will go from one series to the next.
– Cincinnati and Florida dominated during the regular season. Cincinnati finished with 110 points which was 16 points more than third place Newfoundland and Florida finished the regular season with 106 points, 12 more than the Growlers. The fact that Cincinnati and Florida didn’t make it to the Kelly Cup finals is not a huge surprise but the way they lost was a big surprise. Cincinnati lost to Toledo 4-1 in the Central Division Finals and Florida lost the Newfoundland 4-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
– The Newfoundland Growlers are the story of the playoffs. A first year team affiliated with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies, the Growlers had their head coach (Ryane Clowe) step down in January for medical reasons. Assistant coach John Snowden was named the new head coach. Newfoundland won the North Division easily but struggled at the end of the regular season losing nine of their last 14 games. The Growlers won the first round of the playoffs against Brampton 4-2 but three of the wins came in overtime. Newfoundland improved each round and by the time they took on the favored Florida Everblades in the Eastern Conference Finals they were playing their best hockey. Newfoundland went to Florida to start the series and beat the Everblades twice and the series was essentially decided. It ended up going five games but the Growlers were dominate. Here are a few examples:
In their four wins against Florida the Growlers outscored the Everblades 16-1.
In 79 playoff games so far there has been nine shutouts, the last three have been by Newfoundland’s Micheal Garteig against Florida who was #2 in the ECHL in the regular season averaging 3.83 goals per game.
Newfoundland was very disciplined in the series allowing only eight power play opportunities to Florida and the Everblades scored only one power play goal. Florida allowed 22 power plays to the Growlers that resulted in five power play goals.
Growler forward Zach O’Brien had his second hat trick of the playoffs in game four against the Everblades. There have been five hat tricks in the playoffs so far and Zach has two of them. He is tied for the lead in playoffs in goals (14) and is second in points (24). O’Brien leads the playoffs in game winning goals with five. By the way the ECHL record for most goals in one playoff year is 17.
– The Kelly Cup finals will be unique no matter who joins Newfoundland. The Growlers are a first year franchise and you have to go back to 1990 to find the last time that has happened. The Greensboro Monarchs won the 1990 ECHL championship (Riley Cup) as a first year franchise beating the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds 4-1.
– If Tulsa makes the finals it will be the first time since joining the ECHL in 2014. The Oilers missed the playoffs the last three seasons.
-If Toledo makes the finals it will be the first time since 1994. The Walleye won their division four years straight (2015-18) but never advanced to the finals. This season they finished second to Cincinnati in the Central Division but can advance to the championship finals with a win in Tulsa tomorrow night.
– Here is a story from the Toledo Blade about the disappointment of the Walleye losing game six at home and having to take a 15 hour bus ride to Tulsa for game seven: https://www.toledoblade.com/sports/walleye/2019/05/21/why-the-toledo-walleye-are-busing-to-tulsa-echl-playoffs/stories/20190521092
– The off season changes will pick up next month but several notable ones have already been announced. Allen captain Joel Chouinard and former players Peter MacArthur and Tyler Barnes have retired. Defenseman Etienne Boutet has signed to play in France. Utah’s leading scorer (71 points, 32 goals), Caleb Herbert, has signed in Austria where his teammate will be Allen goalie C.J. Motte who signed earlier. Goalie Joe Cannata, who led the Colorado Eagles to the Kelly Cup in 2018 and played for Utah this season has signed to play in Sweden in 2019-20. If this off season is typical the majority of the top 10 ECHL scorers will not return to next season. If they don’t get AHL deals they will head to Europe.
– The Wichita Thunder announced last week that their new coach will be Bruce Ramsay who Allen fans will remember from his six years (2009-15) as the head coach in Tulsa. There has been speculation that Wichita Thunder captain Dyson Stevenson could return to Allen. Since Dyson is now a veteran with 288 pro games he can become a free agent and sign with any ECHL team. Will Stevenson re-sign with Wichita now that the Thunder have selected Ramsay as their new coach? Ramsay played a similar style to Stevenson during his pro career. Ramsay played one season in Wichita (2000-01) and had 35 points in 60 games to go along with 364 penalty minutes. Stevenson could also look at playing in Europe. The bottom line is Dyson will have lots of option on where he will play next season and Allen is just one of them.
DID YOU KNOW: There are so many stats you can look at to determine which of the three teams left in the playoffs will win the Kelly Cup. Here are a couple of comparisons looking at games played in the division and conference finals.
Goals Allowed Per Game
1.73 – Newfoundland
2.00 – Toledo
2.33 – Tulsa