The ECHL final four was completed last night in dramatic fashion. Florida lost its second straight home game to South Carolina to prove once again the Brabham Cup (regular season champion) curse is alive and well. Only five times since the ECHL began in 1988-89 has the regular season champion gone on to win the Kelly Cup and the last time it was accomplished was 2013-14. South Carolina won the winner take all game by a score of 3-2 and will now take on its in state rival Greenville. The series format for the best of five series between the #2 seed (Greenville) and #4 seed (South Carolina) in the Eastern Conference Finals will be:
Game 1 – Greenville at South Carolina (Wednesday, June 16)
Game 2 – South Carolina at Greenville (Friday, June 18)
Game 3 – South Carolina at Greenville (Saturday, June 19)
Game 4 – Greenville at South Carolina (Monday, June 21)
Game 5 – Greenville at South Carolina (Wednesday, June 23)
All games start at 7:05 pm (EDT). You can see the higher seed (Greenville) has only two home games but they are the prime weekend games. These teams are 200 miles apart so traveling back and forth is possible. Arena availability is also a factor. My understanding is the South Carolina games will be played in its practice facility.
– Fort Wayne prevailed over Wichita in the other winner take all game last night to advance to the Western Conference Finals. Fort Wayne had a go ahead goal late in the game disallowed after video review (goalie interference) which sent to game into overtime. It took Fort Wayne just 65 seconds into overtime to score the series winning goal. It was a tough ending to the season for Wichita who faltered down the stretch in the regular season, relinquishing first place to Allen and then losing in the first round of the playoffs. Since May 15 Wichita’s record is 5-8-1.
– The Komets will now take on the Allen Americans who are the overall #1 seed after Florida lost. The Americans opted to start the series with Fort Wayne at home for two games which means the final three games (as necessary) will be in Fort Wayne. I have had the question several times who makes this decision. I can report it was a joint decision between the front office and Steve Martinson and everyone was in agreement on the approach. Martinson likes starting the series at home and noted to me the winner of all four first round series won the first game of the series. There is certainly a business component as well to starting the series at home as the Americans will get prime Friday and Saturday dates.
– Here is the schedule for the series against Fort Wayne. I will have a complete preview the next two days but I think the schedule is advantageous to the Americans for several reasons. First, Allen was able to delay the start of the series to get prime weekend dates but more importantly buy some time for injured players to heal. Second, the schedule now calls for five games in six days which should benefit the Americans. Allen’s strength is its depth with all four lines capable of scoring so Martinson doesn’t shorten the bench very often which helps playing so many games in a few days. Allen has three goalies to call on and they are all playing well. The Americans have alternated two veteran goalies (Jake Paterson & C.J. Motte) at the end of the regular season and in the playoffs. Fort Wayne played goalie Dylan Ferguson exclusively in the playoffs. Motte (.931) and Paterson (.929) combined for a save percentage of .929 in the first round. Ferguson, who played all five games in the first round, had a .918 save percentage.
Game 1 – Fort Wayne at Allen (Friday, June 18, 7:05 pm CDT)
Game 2 – Fort Wayne st Allen (Saturday, June 19, 7:05 pm CDT)
Game 3 – Allen at Fort Wayne (Monday, June 21, 7:30 pm EDT)
Game 4 – Allen at Fort Wayne (Tuesday, June 22, 7:30 pm EDT)
Game 5 – Allen at Fort Wayne (Wednesday, June 23, 7:30 pm EDT)
– Here is a preview of the Western Conference Finals issued by the ECHL. A good read: https://www.echl.com/en/news/2021/6/western-conference-finals-allen-americans-fort-wayne-komets-2021-echl-kelly-cup-playoffs
– Here is the Eastern Conference Finals preview: https://www.echl.com/en/news/2021/6/eastern-conference-finals-greenville-swamp-rabbits-south-carolina-stingrays-2021-echl-kelly-cup-playoffs
– There will be some familiar faces when Fort Wayne arrives in Allen. Former Allen players Zach Pochiro, Nick Boka and Justin Kapelmaster all play for Fort Wayne. The only other former Allen American player to make to the final four is Frank DiChiara, who plays for Greenville.
– It you watched the Stanley Cup playoffs last night and saw the Vegas Golden Knights defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 in game one of the semifinals series you saw former Allen Americans defenseman Alec Martinez score the game winning goal. Alec played three games for Allen during the NHL lockout in 2012-13 as he was living in Allen at the time. In those three games he had two points (1G, 1A). Martinez won the Stanley Cup the year before and year after he played in Allen but he was a gracious guy for those three games playing for the Americans in the old Central Hockey League. Maybe his championship pedigree rubbed off because Allen went on to win its first championship that season.