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ESTERO, Fla. – And then, there were two…

In just a handful of hours, Florida and Colorado will open up the 2018 Kelly Cup Final in Loveland, Colorado, 44 hours after the Eagles won the Western Conference title in a game 7 thriller over the Fort Wayne Komets.

On the other side, the Florida Everblades have not played a game in more than five days, after dispatching the Adirondack Thunder in five games in the East Final. The Everblades spent Thursday traveling after finding out who their opponent would be. As a franchise, this is their fourth trip to the Kelly Cup Final, where they sport an all-time record of 7-9 and won the Cup in 2012, defeating Las Vegas 4-1.

This is Colorado’s second straight trip to the Kelly Cup Final. Last year, the Eagles won their first Kelly Cup by sweeping the South Carolina Stingrays. The Eagles have won three championships overall, including two back in the Central Hockey League. Additionally, Colorado is trying to become the second franchise in the Kelly Cup era (since 1997) and fourth overall in league history to win back-to-back league titles (Allen 2015 & 2016, Toledo in 1993 & 1994, Hampton Roads in 1991 & 1992).

All-time, Florida holds a 4-3-1 lead over Colorado, but it’s been more than three years since the teams last played each other. It is worth noting, however, only one of the eight contests were decided by one goal. Other than that statistic, there really isn’t much to glean from the overall series between these two clubs.

Despite opening the series on the front range due to a pre-planned event at Germain Arena, the Everblades will play game seven — if necessary — on their ice.

Final Regular Season Records:

Florida Everblades: 53-13-2-4, 112 pts (Brabham Cup Champs — 1st in South Division, 1st in Eastern Conference)
Colorado Eagles: 48-18-4-2, 102 points (Mountain Division Champions, 2nd in Western Conference)

How They Got Here:

Division Semifinal Results:

Florida defeated Atlanta, 4-0
Colorado defeated Wichita 4-2

Division Final Results:

Florida defeated Orlando, 4-1
Colorado defeated Idaho 4-0

Conference Final Results:

Florida defeated Adirondack, 4-1
Colorado defeated Fort Wayne, 4-3

Series Schedule (Home Team in CAPS):

Game 1 – Friday, May 25 – Florida at COLORADO 7:05 pm MT
Game 2 – Saturday, May 26 – Florida at COLORADO 7:05 pm MT
Game 3 – Wednesday, May 30 – Colorado at FLORIDA 7:30 pm ET
Game 4 – Friday, June 1 – Colorado at FLORIDA 7:30 pm ET
*Game 5 – Saturday, June 2 – Colorado at FLORIDA 7 pm ET
*Game 6 – Wednesday, June 6 – Florida at COLORADO 7:05 pm MT
*Game 7 – Saturday, June 9 – Colorado at FLORIDA 7:00 pm ET

*=> If Necessary

How Florida Wins:

Florida has shown all season they are the most complete team in the ECHL. During the regular campaign, the Everblades had the best goaltending tandem in the league (Martin Ouelette and Callum Booth allowed 2.14 goals per game on average,) had one of the most potent offenses in the league (3.63 goals/game) and could make you pay shorthanded (14 SHG, led the ECHL).

The one aspect of the game where the Everblades have a significant advantage over Colorado is on the man-advantage. In the Conference Finals, the Everblades went 7-19 (36.8% efficiency) on the power-play, while the Eagles were a paltry 2-26 (7.7%).

Florida wins this series by making the Eagles take untimely penalties & forcing the issue in every aspect of the game.

How Colorado Wins:

Simply put, the Eagles will need their other offensive stars; Matt GarbowskyRyan OlsenShawn St-Amant, J.C. BeaudinJulian Nantel, and Drayson Bowman to elevate their game. Outside of Michael Joly, there is not another Eagles forward in the top-10 of league scoring in the playoffs. There is little doubt that when the Eagles offense gets going, it can be one of the most potent in the ECHL. The challenge for the Eagles this series will be trying to get additional scoring against one of the best goaltenders in the playoffs in Martin Ouelette.

The second key for the Eagles to repeat is to not get suckered into taking the extra penalty. It’s an overused phrase in hockey, but the Eagles need to play whistle-to-whistle and make sure that if someone from their side is going off, an Everblades player is going with them.

Colorado also needs some continued, consistent goaltending from keeper Joe Cannata. In the Eagles’ first-round series against the Wichita Thunder, Cannata only posted a .856 save percentage and 3.09 GAA in six games played. However, against the Idaho Steelheads in the Mountain Division Final, he recorded two shutouts (overtime efforts in games one and four,) .972 save percentage, and 1.00 GAA in the four-game sweep. In the West Final, Cannata posted a .918 save percentage and a 2.41 goals against average in seven games. Such play will keep the Eagles in close games when scoring isn’t as prevalent.

The Sin Bin will have the 2018 Kelly Cup Final covered from soup-to-nuts. C.C. Hawkley will live-tweet the game on the  @SinBinEagles twitter account, while Tia Preece & Kristen Wooten brings you the action from the Florida side.

You can also listen to our 2018 Kelly Cup Final preview, on a special edition of the In the Corners podcast:

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