LOVELAND, Colo. – The second round of the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs is complete, with all four divisions now providing a sole representative. In the West, Colorado worked quickly to sweep Idaho four games to none, and Fort Wayne scraped to defeat Toledo in six games. The table is now set for a Western Conference Final between the Eagles and the Komets.
Colorado’s roster boasts regular season goal-leader Michael Joly and shutdown defenseman Matt Register, while Fort Wayne proceeds to round three with ECHL MVP Shawn Szydlowski and potent point machines Gabriel Desjardins and Phelix Martineau. Both teams also have strong goaltending behind the pads of the Joe Cannata (Eagles) and Michael Houser (Komets).
C.C. Hawkley and Kristen Wooten break down the 2018 ECHL Western Conference Final by looking at what it will take each team to move on and earn their spot in the Kelly Cup Final.
Final Regular Season Records:
Colorado Eagles: 48-18-4-2, 102 points (Mountain Division Champions, 2nd in Western Conference)
Fort Wayne Komets: 46-20-5-1, 98 points (2nd in Central Division, 3rd in Western Conference)
Division Semifinals Results:
Colorado Eagles: Eliminated the Wichita Thunder, 4-2, in Mountain Division Semifinal.
Fort Wayne Komets: Eliminated the Cincinnati Cyclones 4-1, in Central Division Semifinal.
Division Finals Results:
Colorado Eagles: Swept the Idaho Steelheads, 4-0, in Mountain Division Final.
Fort Wayne Komets: Eliminated the Toledo Walleye, 4-2, in Central Division Final.
Game 1: Saturday, May 12 – Fort Wayne at COLORADO 7:05 pm MT
Game 2: Sunday, May 13 – Fort Wayne at COLORADO 7:05 pm MT
Game 3: Wednesday, May 16 – Colorado at FORT WAYNE 7:30 pm ET
Game 4: Friday, May 18 – Colorado at FORT WAYNE 8:00 pm ET
*Game 5: Saturday, May 19 – Colorado at FORT WAYNE 7:30 pm ET
*Game 6: Tuesday, May 22 – Fort Wayne at COLORADO 7:05 pm MT
*Game 7: Wednesday, May 23 – Fort Wayne at COLORADO 7:05 pm MT
*=> If Necessary
Season Series Recap:
Fort Wayne defeated Colorado, 4-3, in their only regular-season meeting on November 8 in Loveland, CO. Both teams posted only 22 shots apiece, with Garrett Bartus and Sam Brittain in goal for the Komets and Eagles, respectively.
How Colorado Wins:
Keep feeding the young gun and clamping down on defense. Hot-hand rookie forward J.C. Beaudin leads the league with eight playoff goals, notching a couple of two-goal games against the Idaho Steelheads in round two. Three-time ECHL Defenseman of the Year Matt Register has posted an even or positive plus/minus rating in all but one postseason game this year; his ten assists in the Kelly Cup Playoffs has confirmed his worth as a facilitator, as well. The Eagles will have to get equally inspired performances from fellow d-men like Cliff Watson, Gabriel Verpaelst, Jake Marto, and Collin Bowman to keep Fort Wayne’s top scorers at bay.
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 — with 47 saves in the latter), .972 save percentage, and 1.00 GAA in the four-game sweep. Such play will keep Colorado in close games when scoring isn’t as prevalent.
How Fort Wayne Wins:
If the Komets to make it to the Kelly Cup Final, they’ll need their power play to continue their hot streak. Currently leading the playoffs with a 25 percent power play percentage, Ft. Wayne has scored nine goals in their 36 opportunities.
The Komets, known for being one of the tougher teams in the league, look to use their physical capabilities to dictate play against the Eagles. Not only are they tough, but they know how to make it work to their advantage and won’t sacrifice their style of play to adapt to their opponent.
Shutting down Register will be a must for the Komets. Register has been behind a third of the Eagles goals this postseason, notching ten assists.
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