This year’s Kelly Cup Finals best-of-seven series featured the Western Conference Champion Colorado Eagles and the Eastern Conference Champion South Carolina Stingrays. It took the Eagles the minimum four games to capture the team’s first Kelly Cup as they completed the only series sweep of the 2017 playoffs. Games one and two opened up the championship series at the Budweiser Event Center in Loveland, CO this past weekend. The Eagles fell behind late in the third period of game one but got a tally from Matt Garbowsky with just :02 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game, 2-2. Matt Register then netted the overtime winner just over 10 minutes into the second OT which gave Colorado the 1-0 series lead with the dramatic victory. The following evening for game number two the teams entered the third period tied once again. The Eagles earned the eventual game-winner 10:09 into the final frame to take a commanding 2-0 series lead with another 3-2 win before the quest for the cup shifted to Charleston, SC for the next three games. Colorado once again fell behind late but notched the game-tying-goal with just :24 seconds remaining sending the game to overtime once again. The Eagles continued their historic success in playoff overtimes improving to 6-0 in the extra session as they got the game-winning-goal from Garbowsky early in the first OT to take a 3-0 series lead. Stingrays goalie, Parker Milner did his best to stave off the Colorado attack in game four making 42 saves but his team’s offense was shutdown by the Eagles who held on for a 2-1 victory and take 2016-17 Kelly Cup Championship.
FULL FINALS RESULTS:
Fri. May 26, 2017 - FINAL 2OT SC (2) @ COL (3)
Sun. May 28, 2017 - FINAL SC (2) @ COL (3)
Sun. Jun 04, 2017 – FINAL OT COL (5) @ SC (4)
Mon. Jun 05, 2017 - FINAL COL (2) @ SC (1)
HOW THEY GOT TO THE FINALS:
Eastern Conference Finals, Manchester vs. South Carolina : South Carolina defeats Manchester 4-3After both teams navigated their way past the top seeds of their divisions, Manchester took a commanding 2-0 series lead after winning the first two games, both on the road at the North Charleston Coliseum. The Rays responded by taking the next three meetings, one at home and the first two in Manchester at the SNHU Arena. With their backs against the wall heading into game six, the ECHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Stingrays 5-1 in the only game of the series not decided by two or fewer goals. This forced a decisive game seven to declare the east champion. South Carolina erased two separate deficits in the contest to capture the 4-3 win in game seven and the series obtaining the E.A. "Bud" Gingher Memorial Trophy to advance to the championship series vs. the Colorado Eagles. The Stingrays avoided losing in game seven of the Conference Finals for the second straight season after having a 3-2 series lead (2015-16 lost games six and seven vs. the Wheeling Nailers). The ECHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals are set to make their fifth appearance in the Finals and are looking to win the club’s fourth Kelly Cup and first since 2009.
Western Conference Finals, Colorado vs. Toledo: Colorado defeats Toledo 4-1The battle for the Western Conference title featured a power house matchup between the top-seeded Toledo Walleye and Colorado Eagles. Toledo won the Brabham Cup as the league’s regular season champion with 106 points and entered the series with a close-call, seven-game victory over Kalamazoo in the opening round of the post-season and an impressive five-game win over their biggest rival, the Fort Wayne Komets. The Eagles finished not far behind one-point shy of the century mark with 99 points and followed it up in the playoffs by a 4-1 series win over Idaho and upset of the two-time defending Kelly Cup Champion, Allen Americans in six games. The Eagles fell in the opening game in Toledo but then rattled off four straight wins to take Western Conference crown and earn a trip to the ECHL’s championship series. Don’t let the lopsided series win fool you as it could have went either way. Two of the contests went into overtime, three of the five games were decided by one goal with and another (game one, a 4-2 win for Toledo) was a two-goal decision with an empty-netter late in the game. Earning the Bruce Taylor Trophy as the champions of the west, the ECHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche will make their Kelly Cup Finals debut but have five Central Hockey League final appearances on their resume winning two of those series capturing the Ray Miron President’s Cup in 2005 and 2007.
Photo: Colorado Eagles / John Babitz