ECHL Kelly Cup Finals Preview: Kansas City Mavericks vs. Florida Everblades

Photo by: Official Kansas City Mavericks Website

The teams are set for the ECHL’s 2024 Kelly Cup Finals as the Florida Everblades won their divisional series against the Adirondack Thunder on Tuesday night, 4-3 in game six. Their opponent, the Kansas City Mavericks, locked up the Western Division Championship against the Toledo Walleye on Monday night, 7-1 in game six. This series will mark the first time these two teams have faced each other this season. The teams meet in Kansas City for games one and two before heading to Florida for games three through five (if necessary). If a champion has yet to emerge after game five, the series will return to Kansas City for the final two games. Kansas City is slightly favored to win the Cup.

The Mavericks were the ECHL’s Brabham Cup winner for the team with the best record in the regular season, going 54-12-6 for 112 points. Kansas City scored 305 goals to lead the league and was fourth in goals against with 202. Mavericks forward Patrick Curry ended the regular season tied for second in points with 39 goals, 48 assists, and 87 points. There were four other Mavericks within the top 15 in scoring. Kansas City was eighth on the power play, converting 21.3 percent of their opportunities; they were 13th on the penalty kill with 79.3 percent. This is the Mavericks’ first appearance in the Kelly Cup Finals in their 15 years in the league. Head coach Tad O’Had has coached the team since 2020-21 after working as an assistant coach under Brad Ralph with the Florida Everblades from 2013-2020. The team has two players who have won the Kelly Cup, Jake Jaremko and Jake McLaughlin, both won two years ago with the Florida Everblades. In the playoffs, the Mavericks have excelled, defeating their first-round opponent, the Tulsa Oilers, in four, winning the Mountain Division 4-1 against the Idaho Steelheads, and defeating the Toledo Walleye in six games. Kansas City has played 15 playoff games and has a record of 12-3 with 55 goals scored and 34 goals against. They scored seven goals on 42 power plays for 16.7 percent and killed 39 of 42 penalties for 92.9 percent, good enough for second place. Forwards Jeremy McKenna and Patrick Curry lead the team in points with 17 and 16, respectively. Coach O’Had has used two goalies, with Cale Morris playing in eight games and Jack LaFontaine in seven. LaFontaine has posted a 0.956 save percentage, while Morris has a 0.916.

Photo by: Official Kansas City Mavericks Website

The Florida Everblades, winner of the past two Kelly Cup Championships, are playing in their record-setting third consecutive season. They have appeared in seven Kelly Cup Finals since they entered the league in 1998, another record, and are seeking their fourth title in franchise history. A win this year will give Florida the most Kelly Cup Championships in league history. Head coach Brad Ralph leads the ECHL in playoff games, having coached 148 games and 91 wins. The Everblades have eleven players whose names are engraved on the Kelly Cup. The Everblades finished the regular season in third place in the South Division. They led the league in goals against with 186 and were eighth in the league standings with 89 points. Goaltender Cam Johnson, two-time Kelly Cup Playoffs MVP, led the league in goals against with 2.21, wins with 27, minutes played with 2,877, and saves with 1,232. He tied for first with four shutouts. Forward Bobo Carpenter led the team in goals with 28, and forward Oliver Chau led in points with 60. Florida’s route to the Kelly Cup Finals started on a rocky road. The Everblades found themselves down 3-1 to the Jacksonville Icemen, but they managed to win three straight games, including two on the road to win the first-round series 4-3. They had an easier time with the Orlando Solar Bears winning the South Division in five games. Their Eastern Division series against the Adirondack Thunder took six games to decide the champion. During game two against the Thunder, Florida lost fan-favorite Cam Darcy to a broken leg that required surgery. Darcy’s absence from the lineup in the four games after his injury motivated the players and the fans. The Everblades have played in 18 playoff games with a record of 12-5. They scored 50 goals and gave up 37. They scored seven goals on 54 power play chances for 13 percent and have killed 60 of 70 penalties for 87.1 percent. Bobo Carpenter leads the team in goals and points in the playoffs with eight and 15. Cam Johnson has played in every game for Florida, recording a 0.937 save percentage and three shutouts.

Photo by: Official Florida Everblades Website

I compared both teams in offense, goaltending, special teams, and intangibles below.

OFFENSE- KC

The Kansas City Mavericks hold an edge in scoring based on their offensive production during the regular season and in the playoffs. The Mavericks scored 81 more goals in the regular season and five more in three fewer games in the playoffs.

GOALTENDING- FLA

With Cam Johnson between the pipes, the Florida Everblades have a distinct advantage over the Mavericks. He is having one of the best seasons in his career and has extensive playoff and Kelly Cup Finals experience. His 0.937 save percentage in the payoffs equals the combined save percentage of the two netminders for Kansas City. He has also faced three elimination games against the Jacksonville Icemen and rose to the challenge by winning all three with one shutout.

SPECIAL TEAMS- KC

Kansas City holds the advantage while on the power play, scoring 17 percent of the chances and stopping 92.9 percent on the penalty kill. The Everblades’ power play took five games before recording their first goal. They scored six more power-play goals over the next ten games.

INTANGIBLES- FLA

There is no denying that playoff experience, especially experience in a finals series, is invaluable to a team’s success. The Everblades have an advantage in experience, with many of those having career-best seasons. The Everblades are also averaging over 1,100 more fans at home, which has helped them achieve a 75 percent win percentage at Hertz Arena.

The Florida Everblades hold a slight edge over the Mavericks in the series, and I expect this to go for all seven games. Game one is on Friday at 7:05 p.m. at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence, Mo.

James Slemp

I write for and photograph the Florida Everblades for ITR. I am a retiree that has turned my hobby of photography into a business. I currently live in Sarasota, Florida with my wife, Christy, but I'm originally from California. My previous career has taken me all over the US and the world and I definitely enjoy traveling. I've played hockey for over 30 years, learning as an adult, and love the game.

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