ESTERO, Fla. -- The Kelly Cup has come back to Southwest Florida.
Naples native Zach Solow scored two of the Florida Everblades’ four first-period goals and the team that Solow cheered on to their first Kelly Cup in 2012 as a youngster never looked back, securing the organization’s second ECHL championship with a 4-2 victory over the Toledo Walleye in Game Five of the Kelly Cup Finals in front of 7,674 fans, the largest crowd to attend a game at Hertz Arena this season.
With a four-games-to-one series victory in the 2022 Finals, the Everblades matched the same 4-1 result that secured the organization’s first Kelly Cup Championship in the 2012 Finals over the Las Vegas Wranglers.
Everblades’ goaltender Cam Johnson was named the Kelly Cup Playoffs Most Valuable Player. With 36 saves, Johnson concluded a spectacular postseason with his 15th win in 18 appearances in between the pipes.
Matt Berry’s goal 4:07 into the night allowed the Walleye to draw first blood for the third time of the series. After goaltender Cam Johnson stopped a chance from Ryan Lowney, Berry collected the rebound at the slot to silence the huge crowd.
From that point, the Everblades flipped the first period entirely in their favor beginning at 8:12 of the first period. Solow started the party with a one-timer from John McCarron which knotted the score at 1-1.
The Blades followed up with a pair of strikes just seven seconds apart between Matteo Gennaro (10:57) and Levko Koper (11:04) for a 3-1 Blades advantage. Those seven seconds broke the ECHL record for the fastest two goals scored in playoff and Finals history.
Before the first period concluded, the teams swapped two more quick goals. John Albert connected for Toledo at 18:23 before Solow buried his second of the night 28 seconds later. That made it a 4-2 lead for the Everblades before returning to the ice for the second frame.
The offenses went silent in period two with the Everblades clinging onto their 4-2 score. The Walleye had 28 shots recorded at the second intermission compared to the Everblades’ 16. Each side was one-for-two on the power play entering the break.
In a scoreless third period, Toledo outshot the Everblades 10-6, to close out the game with a 38-22 edge.
Head coach Brad Ralph not only won his first Kelly Cup as a head coach, but extended his ECHL record for playoff victories as a head coach to 63. Ralph also equaled the league’s all-time mark with 108 all-time postseason games as a head coach.
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Calling all Everblades fans! Be among the first hockey fans in Southwest Florida to show off your pride in the newly-crowned Kelly Cup Champion Florida Everblades! Grab the newest and hottest Kelly Cup Championship merchandise by checking out the entire collection that is available online by visiting shop.floridaeverblades.com or at the Hertz Arena Pro Shop!
The Florida Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Nashville Predators and the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals.