The Florida Everblades won their second straight ECHL championship Friday with five former Ontario Junior Hockey League players on the roster.

Newly-minted Kelly Cup champions Zach Uens (Wellington), Kyle Neuber (St. Michael’s), Stefan Leblanc (Oakville), Jake Smith (Burlington) and Will Calverley (North York) all played in the 23-team OJHL.

A 4-3 victory over the Idaho Steelheads before a Hertz Arena record crowd of 7,855 fans in Estero, FLA closed out a four-game sweep of the Kelly Cup Finals as the Everblades became the fifth team to win back-to-back ECHL Kelly/Riley Cups. 

Florida secured the league’s ultimate prize for the third time in the organization’s 25-year history. While three other organizations also have won three Kelly Cups, no team has won more.

The 4-0 series victory was the third sweep ever in the ECHL’s 35-year history.

Of the five ECHL teams that have won back-to-back Kelly Cups, the Everblades are just the second squad to host the big trophy on home ice two years in a row.  

With series victories over South Carolina, Jacksonville, Newfoundland and Idaho, the Everblades posted a 16-4-2 postseason record against four of the top six teams in the regular season, making the Blades the only Kelly Cup Champions to face opponents with a combined regular-season winning percentage of more than .700.

Friday’s crowd topped the previous franchise record attendance of 7,805 that witnessed Game Five of the Kelly Cup Playoffs against Trenton on June 1, 2005.

Founded in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 27 teams in 20 states and two Canadian provinces. There have been more than 700 players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after starting their careers in the ECHL, which is one level below the American Hockey League. 

​​The Everblades are affiliated with the NHL’s Florida Panthers and the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.


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