2013 Kelly Cup Finals preview

Yannick Tifu has been this far before, but it has taken him six years to return to the Kelly Cup Finals. (Candice Monhollan)

Yannick Tifu has been this far before, but it has taken him six years to return to the Kelly Cup Finals. (Candice Monhollan)

The match-up features two newbies, the schedule is set, the players are getting prepared.

The 2013 Kelly Cup Finals will begin in just four hours between the Reading Royals and Stockton Thunder – two teams who have never reached this point before in franchise history, but only one will skate around with the coveted Patrick J. Kelly Cup.

Are you ready?

Well, here’s a preview to give you some little odds and ends about each team, some of which you may have never known.

TWO NEWBIES FROM OHIO

The Kelly Cup – and even when it was the Riley Cup – has never ventured into the borders of Pennsylvania or California, so no matter the outcome, a new team representing a new state will be engraved on the trophy.

To add more interest to the story, both teams originated in Ohio.

You heard me right – Ohio.

The Royals were originally the Columbus Chill from 1991-1999 before relocating to Reading, Pa.

The Thunder were originally the Cincinnati Cyclones from 1990-1992, then moved to Alabama as the Birmingham Bulls from 1992-2001, moved again to New Jersey as the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies from 2001-2005, and finally have settled in California as the Thunder since 2005.

CUP HISTORY

The Royals have no Cups in their history in Reading and in Columbus.

The Thunder, however, do have one in their past. Though they haven’t brought one home in Stockton, they did win a Kelly Cup in 2003 as the Boardwalk Bullies.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

Something invaluable the Royals have over the Thunder are not only former Kelly Cup winners, but also players who have been in the Finals before.

Six Royals have played for the Cup and three of them have won – one of them twice.

Evan Barlow (2010 with the Idaho Steelheads), Yannick Tifu (2007 with the Dayton Bombers) and Riley Gill (2011 with the Kalamazoo Wings) have all played in the Cup Finals, but never won.

Former winners on the Royals are Nikita Kashirsky (2009 with the South Carolina Stingrays), Ethan Cox (2011 with the Alaska Aces) and Patrick Wellar (2006 with the Aces and again in 2009 with the Stingrays).

The only person with the Thunder who previously won the Cup is head coach Matt Thomas. He won as an assistant coach with the Boardwalk Bullies in 2003.

KELLY CUP NUMBERS

Home-ice advantage hasn’t historically been shown to aid a team. Only 13 of the 24 league winners have had home-ice advantage.

Same thing goes for the Cup-clinching game. The Cup has been won by the road team 13 of the 24 times.

It’s almost scary how the numbers don’t seem to change in categories. In the 24 overtime games in Finals history, the home team has won 13 of them.

One statistic which stands out the most is Game 4. Historical figures show the winner of Game 4 has gone on to win the series 79.2-percent of the time (95 times out of 120 seven-game series).

  • The Royals are 3-0 in Game 4′s this postseason.
  • The Thunder are 2-1 in Game 4′s this postseason.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • The Royals have an overall playoff record of 12-5 while the Thunder are 12-6.
  • Both teams have had a seven-round series this year. Reading’s came in the Conference Semifinals against the Florida Everblades and Stockton’s was in the Conference Quarterfinals against the Las Vegas Wranglers.
  • Both teams are pretty much even at home. The Royals have a 6-2 record while the Thunder have a 8-2 record.
  • The Royals have a 9-1 record when scoring first while the Thunder are 4-1, which also signifies the Royals are pretty apt at scoring first.
  • Both teams are lethal in overtime. Reading is 4-1  and 2-0 at home while Stockton is 5-1 and 3-1 at home.
  • The Royals are averaging 3.o0 goals per game, which is sixth in the postseason. The Thunder are slightly below with 2.89, which is ninth in the postseason.
  • On the flip side, the Royals are the best in the league in goals against, allowing just 2.06 per game. The Thunder are seventh with 2.78.
  • The power play for the Royals is still lacking, though it has come up huge in critical moments. The Royals currently are clicking at 13.3-percent, 11th in the league. The Thunder are actually worse with 7.1-percent, 13th in the league.
  • However, the penalty kill is almost identical between the two. The Royals are eighth with 84.6-percent and the Thunder are seventh at 84.8-percent.

STAND-OUT PLAYERS

For the Royals:

  • Tifu continues to the lead the team in points (17) and goals (9) this postseason. The 17 points matches his career best in the postseason. He had 17 points (7G, 10A) in his run with the Bombers in 2007. His nine goal are tied for league best with Bobby Hughes of the Aces and David Pacan of the Cyclones.
  • Kashirsky has quietly also had a good run in the postseason with 14 points and leads the team with 11 assists. He’s four points away from his career best 18 points from 2009 with the Stingrays. His 11 assists are tied for third in the league, behind Ryan Hayes of the Thunder (14) and Mike Embach of the Cyclones (12).
  • Alex Berry had a fantastic Conference Finals. He has five goals, four of which were scored against the Cyclones last round. The Royals hope he can continue on his current hot streak.
  • Gill and Mark Owuya continue to lead the league in goal-against. Gill is second with 1.90 and Owuya is first with 1.61.

For the Thunder:

  • Hayes, who bounced around a few teams during the regular season, has been the hottest player for the Thunder this postseason. He leads the Thunder in goals (8), assists (14) and points (22).
  • Rookie Andrew Clark has also come up big for the Thunder and sits just one goal and four points behind Hayes.
  • Six different Thunder players have 10 or more points in the playoffs (Hayes, Clark, Harrison Reed, Garet Hunt, Maxime Boisclair and Matt Bergland), compared to just three for the Royals.
  • The Thunder also boast a good goaltender in Olivier Roy, who is an Edmonton Oilers draft pick from 2009. He has started all the games for the Thunder and was yanked once in the first round. He currently has a 2.55 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

OFFICIALS

The referees for the series: Tom Chmielewski, Frederic LeBlanc, Nic Leduc, JM McNulty and Ryan Murphy.

The linesmen for the series: Ryan Daisy, Brent Martin, Shaun Morgan, Brian Oliver and Francis Trempe.

PLAYOFFS MVP WATCH

This section is debatable, but these are the players I currently feel are making a strong case to be the playoff MVP:

  • Yannick Tifu
  • Riley Gill
  • Ryan Hayes
  • Andrew Clark
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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Kelly Cup Finals, Kelly Cup Playoffs, Sports

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