ECHL Kelly Cup Final: Kansas City Mavericks vs Florida Everblades Game 1 Recap | 05/31/2024

Photo: James Slemp | Inside The Rink

The highly anticipated first game of the Kelly Cup Finals took place on Friday night, pitting the two-time Defending Champion against the Rookie. This marked Kansas City Maverick’s first appearance in the Final since the franchise’s inception, and Florida Everblades are looking for a three-peet, adding an extra layer of excitement. Kansas City, the regular-season Championship winner, clinched the Brabham Cup. Florida wrapped up their season with a record of 70-40-23, while Kansas City finished 72-54-12. Despite both teams being formidable, they operate in entirely different hockey divisions, setting the stage for an intriguing clash. 

Florida went seven rounds with their conference championship series against the Adirondack Thunder, giving them one less day of rest than KC due to their six-game series finish with the Toledo Walleye. This could be a huge difference in play, as both teams have shown their aggressive defense and intense offense. While both teams are fierce, they face entirely different levels of hockey in their divisions. In this game, we see KC put Cale Morris between the pipes and Cam Johnson in for Florida. Cam comes in with a 2.21 GAA and an SV% of .921. He’s been a solid unit in the Everblades’ quest for the Cup. The Mavericks Cale Morris has seen moments of complete locked-in play, and this game could be his time to break through and show us some of his best play yet. 

The puck drops, and Everblades leading goal scorer, Bobo Carpenter, makes it a 1-0 at three minutes in. Mavericks Nate Knoepke gives us the first penalty of the game for tripping, putting the Everblades on the power play. While the teams were figuring their positions out to start the power play, Floridas Matt Wedman got called for tripping, effectively taking the power play away. 6:26 in, and KC‘s playoff points leader Jeremy McKenna makes it a tied game. David Cotton and Jordan Sandbrook get into a soiree, almost kissing the ice, but taking a chokehold from a linesman is as far as it went. Lots of pushing and shoving occur, showing the tone has been set. This is going to get aggressive, and they’re not holding back. Florida has not been shy about pulling Cam Johnson and using that extra attacker. At 11:08, Cade Borchardt gets called for High Sticking, a double minor, giving the Everblades four minutes of power play. The Everblades on the power play sit at 12.96%, while the Mavericks are 92.86% on penalty kills. The Mavs kill off the penalty, and almost 45 seconds later, we see Floridas Oliver Chau make it a 2-1 game. They are not holding back. Fans on both sides were calling for things they thought the refs were missing while we got another Florida Goal, this time by Cole Moberg, with 2:16 left in the first. The period ends, and we see Floridas Jesse Lansdell and McKenna share some jibs, leading to several players throwing shade like an apple tree in spring. The first period closes with Florida leading in goals 3-1 and shots 10-8. 

The second period gets underway, and the heat is on, and it is a humid one. The Everblades are not backing down, and we see KC giving everything they have and trying to get in position to make shots on goal. Florida dominates the shots in the first five. KC only gets one shot off. The players keep their heads together, not getting into it immediately with each other. Things started to get testy midway through the period. Bobo Carpenter has a fantastic shot, no goal, and Florida calls a review to see if it went in as it looked to bounce off the post. After the review, the play is called as a goal, making it 4-1 Florida. Morris remains in the goal as Florida gets their fifth goal with Riese Zmolek’s slapshot. Mavericks fans start chanting LaFontaine, calling for a goalie change with ten minutes left in the period. Florida’s Zach Berzolla gets called for tripping and putting KC on their night’s first actual power play. Bobo Carpenter takes it away from KC, catches Oliver Chau, and makes it a 6-1 game on a short-handed goal. KC fans once again start chanting LaFontaine louder than before. With two minutes and five seconds left, Florida’s Logan Lambdin makes it 7-1. Patrick Curry and Will Reilly get into it after the period ends, ending up on the ice, wrestling it out with roughing penalties, and Florida’s Reilly gets the double minor. Kansas City will start the third period on a two-minute power play. 

The third penalty started, and Kansas City was led out by goalie Jack LaFontaine. He has been absolutely stellar in the net for KC. Even with the boost of bringing out Jack, the Mavericks couldn’t make anything of their power play. Florida is just laying it on strong. Zach Berzolla laid it on too strongly and ended up with a delay of game call, putting the Mavericks back on the power play. With Jack Lafontaine in the net, the crowd is electric as the Mavs battle, closing out the penalty with one shot on the goal. Florida is hard at it when Riese Zmolek gets a bounce off of KC’s Marc-Olivier Duquette and makes it an 8-1 game with 14 minutes left. Duquette then gets chopped by Floridas Ben Bar, who’s called for high sticking, putting the Mavs on their fourth power play of the night. Kansas City remains 0/4. We get a solid fight from KC, with eight shots recorded in the next eight minutes of play, compared to Floridas’ two, while they lay down some massive defense. Zmolek and McKenna start throwing hands after Zmolek slashes McKenna. They both end up with penalties. McKenna Roughing; however, Zmolek gets the double whammy when he’s also called for roughing. The Mavericks let another penalty expire. Florida just out-skates KC, with the Florida Everblades winning game one. We see some emotions getting the best of players at the end of the game, guaranteeing the next at least four games will be exhilarating.

1st  Star of Game: Oliver Chau
2nd Star of Game: Bobo Carpenter
3rd  Star of Game: Riese Zmolek

The Florida Everblades have tied the record for most goals scored in a single game in the Kelly Cup Finals, and they have tied with the 1989 Johnstown Chiefs, 1992 Hampton Roads Admirals, and the 1996 Charlotte Checkers. With this win, the Everblades set a new record in the ECHL for most consecutive wins in the Final, as they currently have seven. The Mavericks and Everblades meet for game two on Saturday, June 1st, at 7:05 CDT. The Mavericks will have to make some big changes to their game if they are to come back and tie this series. The Everblades closed out the game with 36 shots on goal, while the Mavericks were behind by one, with most of their shots coming in the second and third periods. This could be a short series or a lengthy one, like Florida has been giving us this entire playoff series. 

Stephanie DeLaFleur

Beat Writer covering the ECHL Savannah Ghost Pirates, NHL Vegas Golden Knights and AHL Henderson Silver Knights. Follow me on X @StephiDelafleur

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