(Photo: ECHL)

It’s down to the final two teams: East meets West for the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals. The Brabham Cup winning Alaska Aces will meet the fifth-seeded Cincinnati Cyclones in a best-of-seven series for the 2014 Kelly Cup Title. It is the first time the two teams will meet in the Finals. For the Aces, they have captured an ECHL record five Brabham Cup Titles and this year marks their fourth appearance in the Finals, also an ECHL record. Alaska last won the Kelly Cup in 2011 when they defeated the Kalamazoo Wings. The Cyclones last took the Cup in 2010, defeating the Idaho Steelheads.

On the road to the Finals, the Aces swept the Las Vegas Wranglers in the first round in the West and met the Steelheads in the second round. They defeated Idaho in five games in several hard fought contests. After being shutout by Steelheads netminder Josh Robinson in the first game, Alaska cracked his code, getting pucks behind him for the win over the next four games. The Bakersfield Condors were their last roadblock to the Kelly Cup Finals. The Condors gave the Aces a run for their money in stellar goaltending (Laurent Brossoit) and offensive skill  (Broda, Schaber, Knackstedt) but Alaska gained the momentum and never let up, much like they have done all year.

The Cincinnati Cyclones met the Orlando Solar Bears in the first round in the East, conquering the Bears in six games before taking out the Fort Wayne Komets in another six games during the semifinal round. The Cyclones took on the Greenville Road Warriors in the Eastern Conference Final, needing the magic number six games to solve Greenville on their way to the Kelly Cup Finals.

Goaltending has been a solid tandem for the Aces in Gerald Coleman and Olivier Roy, with Coleman leading the league with a 1.35 goals-against-average. The Cyclones, in turn have looked to Rob Madore as the man between the pipes, the netminder logging over 1100 minutes during the playoffs, and posting a 2.21 gaa. Both teams seem content to continue with what works, so expect to see the Aces trade off the goaltending duties and the Cyclones to answer with the one man in front of the net who has gotten them to the Finals.

The Aces have deadly offense once the momentum swings their way and they learn the opposing teams goaltending secrets. Captain Nick Mazzolini has had his best season yet, and his post-season play leads the league with 9 goals and 18 assists for 27 points in the playoffs. He is coming off his third multi-point game of the playoffs.  Forwards Jordan Morrison and Brett Findlay continue to contribute and Turner Elson has turned up the heat, both in getting down the ice and putting the puck on net. Once the team is up, the defense led by Kane Lafranchise, Sean Curry,  and John Ramage tighten down the hatches and limit the shots on their goaltender. In the Western Conference Finals the Aces held the Condors to just 3 shots on goal during the final period of Game 6, shutting down the top scoring forwards.

The Cincinnati Cyclones are a driven team and have been led offensively by Wade Megan, Josh Shalla and Byron Froese. Shalla has lit up the playoffs registering 10 goals and 5 assists over 18 games played, while Megan has kept the pace with 9 goals and 2 assists for 11 points over 18 games played. The team knows how to play under pressure with goals coming in shorthanded situations, last minute heroics and overtime series clinchers. The blueline has been held down by Brett Wysopal (2g-7a) and Josh McFadden (0g-9a), who are tied for third among defensemen in the playoffs with nine points each.

The Cyclones have excelled at road wins while the Aces have the best home record in the league. The action starts Friday with Game 1 at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska. The Series will be a 3-3-1 format. Games 2 and 3 will be held Saturday May 31st and Monday June 2nd before turning to Cincinnati for 3 games beginning June 6th. See the full schedule below for times. All games will be broadcast on AmericaOne Sports

KELLY CUP FINALS – ALASKA VS. CINCINNATI (all times ADT)
GAME 1 – Cincinnati at Alaska (Sullivan Arena) – Fri. 5/30, 7:15 pm
GAME 2 – Cincinnati at Alaska (Sullivan Arena) – Sat. 5/31, 7:15 pm
GAME 3 – Cincinnati at Alaska (Sullivan Arena) – Mon. 6/2, 7:15 pm
GAME 4 – Alaska at Cincinnati (U.S. Bank Arena) – Fri. 6/6, 3:35 pm
GAME 5 – Alaska at Cincinnati (U.S. Bank Arena) – Sat. 6/7, 3:35 pm *
GAME 6 – Alaska at Cincinnati (U.S. Bank Arena) – Mon. 6/9, 3:35 pm *
GAME 7 – Cincinnati at Alaska (Sullivan Arena) – Wed. 6/11, 7:15 pm *
*If necessary
A West Coast girl, born and raised in the Bay Area in the most non-traditional Hockey Market you could imagine for a long time... When the Sharks came to town it changed the Bay Area hockey landscape forever. Her first love will always be the Red Wings but she has embraced the Sharks since their debut in 1991. She has a passion for minor league grind-it-out-in the-corners hockey. Her heart broke when the ECHL Bulls folded , but luckily the Stockton Thunder are still close enough for her to get her gritty-hockey fix. Besides watching hockey, she is an American Tribal Style belly-dancer and trolls the blue-line, playing defence in a local rec hockey league... A somehow strange but balanced juxtaposition.

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