Big Rapids, Mich. - Two former Ferris State University goaltenders will square off against each other as the Western Conference Champion Las Vegas Wranglers take on the Eastern Conference Champion Florida Everblades in the East Coast Hockey League's (ECHL) Kelly Club Finals starting Monday (May 14) night.
Former FSU netminder Mitch O'Keefe (2005-08) is a member of the Wrangles while ex-Bulldog All-American Pat Nagle (2007-11) is a rookie with the Everblades heading into the championship round. Game one is set for Monday night in Las Vegas.
Additionally, another former Bulldog men's ice hockey player in left wing Adam Miller (2004-08) is a member of the Wranglers and currently has tallied 13 points in 13 games during the 2012 playoffs after producing 84 points on 32 goals and 52 assists in 71 regular-season outings.
Celebrating its 24th season in 2011-12, the ECHL is the Premier 'AA' Hockey League and is the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
Las Vegas' O'Keefe currently checks in fourth in the playoffs with a 1.83 goals against average and is tied for second with a .941 save percentage in the 2012 Kelly Cup Playoffs. He is expected to split time with the Wranglers' Joe Fallon, who leads all netminders in the playoffs with a .953 save percentage.
On the opposite side, Nagle is second in the playoffs with a 1.42 goals against average and leads all players with two shutouts in six postseason appearances. He's tied with O'Keefe for second with a .941 save percentage.
A Bulldog hockey player from 2005-08, O'Keefe posted a 10-9 regular-season mark with 520 saves this campaign. He's 5-1 in the playoffs this year with one shutout. O'Keefe is currently in his fourth season as a professional.
Nagle recorded a 20-14 regular-season mark with a 2.87 goals against average and a .905 save percentage in his debut season after an All-America performance a year ago for the Bulldogs. He's 4-1 in playoff action heading into the Kelly Cup finals and has tallied 128 saves during the postseason run.
The Kelly Cup trophy is named for Patrick J. Kelly, who presents it each year to the postseason champion. Kelly was one of the founding fathers of the ECHL and the second inductee into the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2008. Kelly served as Commissioner for the league's first eight seasons and was named Commissioner Emeritus in 1996, a title that he continues to hold. Kelly, who celebrated his 59th season in professional hockey in 2011-12, coached 1,900 career games and had 935 wins. Kelly coached in the Eastern Hockey League, the Southern Hockey League and the National Hockey League where he was the only coach to ever lead the Colorado Rockies to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Game 2 will be Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. PT at Orleans Arena before the series shifts to Estero, Fla., where the Everblades will host Game 3 on Friday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET and Game 4 on Tuesday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Germain Arena. Game 5, if necessary, would be at 7:30 p.m. ET at Germain Arena on Wednesday, May 23. The series would return to Las Vegas for Game 6, if necessary, on Friday, May 25 at 7:05 p.m. PT and Game 7, if necessary, at 7:05 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 26.
The ECHL is the primary development league for the AHL and the NHL. The ECHL and the AHL are the only two minor professional hockey leagues that are recognized in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the National Hockey League Players' Association. The CBA states that any player on an NHL entry-level contract designated for assignment to a minor league must report if assigned to a team in the ECHL or the AHL. A player on an NHL entry-level contract assigned to a minor professional league other than the ECHL or the AHL is not required to report and can request reassignment to a team in the ECHL or the AHL.
2012 Kelly Cup Finals Schedule
Game 1 – Monday, May 14 at 7:05 p.m. PT at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
Game 2 – Tuesday, May 15 at 7:05 p.m. PT at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
Game 3 – Friday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida
Game 4 – Tuesday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida
Game 5 – Wednesday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida *
Game 6 – Friday, May 25 at 7:05 p.m. PT at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada *
Game 7 – Saturday, May 26 at 7:05 p.m. PT at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada *
* If Necessary