Late this afternoon was the decisive Game 7 of this year’s ECHL Kelly Cup Finals between the Allen Americans and the South Carolina Stingrays. It was a series that pitted brief teammates on the Milwaukee Admirals this season Gary Steffes (Allen) and Scott Ford (South Carolina) against one-another. In the end, it was all Allen all day long in Game 7. The Americans took home the 2015 ECHL Kelly Cup with a 6-1 rout in front of their home fans.
This was the Allen Americans debut season in the ECHL after competing in the Central Hockey League (CHL) where they won the last two Ray Miron President’s Cups until it ceased operations ahead of the 2014-15 season. They became the first ECHL team to advance for the Kelly Cup Finals in their inaugural ECHL season since the Idaho Steelheads managed to do so in 2003-04 season. Allen topped the Western Conference at the end of the regular season and was a single point shy of tying the Toledo Walleye (107 points) for the best record in the entire ECHL. Their road to the Kelly Cup saw them take down the Tulsa Oilers (4-1), Rapid City Rush (4-2), and then climbing back against the Ontario Reign (4-3) before their seven game series in the finals against the South Carolina Stingrays (4-3).
Steffes’ incredible 2014-15 hockey season is now officially complete. He ends it as a Kelly Cup champion and with a grand total of 95 points (61 goals, 34 assists) in 97 games in all competitions between his time with the Allen Americans (ECHL regular season, ECHL playoffs) and the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL regular season). He produced 18 points (13 goals, 5 assists) during the Americans Kelly Cup winning run. I fully expect him to be an AHL regular next season.
The Sheriff and his Stingrays came up just short after a great ECHL season. I made mention of it during the end season grades but Ford looked and played much better than he did at any point during the 2013-14 season. I feel like his off-season fitness work paid off huge and, should he keep motoring along like this past season, could find himself back in his veteran role in the AHL. Knowing how much the coaching staff in Milwaukee loves him it wouldn’t surprise me if he was given yet another return in an Admirals sweater.
All that’s left is for the Stanley Cup Finals to come to a close. The Chicago Blackhawks have the chance to finish up the series on home ice in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From there? Well, take a gander back to the handy dandy off-season calendar for more.