2024 Florida Everblades vs Kansas City Mavericks

Florida Vs. Kansas City: 2024 Kelly Cup Finals Preview

Florida Vs. Kansas City: 2024 Kelly Cup Finals Preview

The Florida Everblades, winners of the last two Kelly Cups, will face the Kansas City Mavericks, who won the Brabham Cup as regular-season champions.

May 30, 2024 by Justin Cohn
Florida Vs. Kansas City: 2024 Kelly Cup Finals Preview

The Florida Everblades, winners of the last two Kelly Cups, will face the Kansas City Mavericks, who won the Brabham Cup as regular-season champions.

No team in ECHL history has won three straight Cups, and no team since the Alaska Aces in 2014 has won both the Brabham and Kelly Cups in the same season.

The series also pits Florida coach Brad Ralph against his former protégé, Tad O’Had, who was his assistant from 2016 to 2020, before O’Had left for the top job with the Mavericks.

The Florida Everblades were 40-23-9 during regular season and are 12-6 in playoffs. The Kansas City Mavericks were 54-12-6 during regular season and are 12-3 in playoffs.

How Can I Watch The ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs?

Every game of the 2024 Kelly Cup Playoffs will stream live and on demand, exclusively on FloHockey from Game 1 of the first round to the Kelly Cup presentation. Sign up today to get access to every single game of intense postseason action!

2024 Kelly Cup Finals

Kansas City Mavericks (66-15-6) Vs. Florida Everblades (52-22-9)

Game 1 – Friday, May 31 at 7:05 p.m. CT at Kansas City
Game 2 – Saturday, June 1 at 7:05 p.m. CT at Kansas City
Game 3 – Wednesday, June 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Florida
Game 4 – Friday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Florida
Game 5 – Saturday, June 8 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Florida *
Game 6 – Monday, June 10 at 7:05 p.m. CT at Kansas City *
Game 7 – Wednesday, June 12 at 7:05 p.m. CT at Kansas City *

* - If Necessary

Florida And Kansas City Top Scorers

Florida’s Oliver Chau had 26 goals and 60 points during the regular season. In the playoffs, Bobo Carpenter leads Florida in scoring with eight goals and 15 points. 

Kansas City’s Patrick Curry had 39 goals and 87 points, both second in the league, during the regular season. In the playoffs, Jeremy McKenna has eight goals and 17 points, second most in the league.

Goaltending In Florida-Kansas City Series

Florida goaltender Cam Johnson, who won the Playoff MVP award in 2022 and 2023, is doing his usual thing – dominating opposing shooters. In the playoffs, he’s 12-6 with a 1.80 goals-against average, .937 save percentage and three shutouts. He’s been the ECHL’s best big-game player for three years running, but he’s also about to face the ECHL’s most formidable offense. 

The list of Kansas City playmakers is daunting – Curry, McKenna, Max Andreev, David Cotton, Jacob Hayhurst, Nolan Walker, Cole Coskey, Cade Borchardt – that Johnson is going to get tested and tested often. That wasn’t necessarily happening in series against Jacksonville, Orlando and Adirondack. 

Florida has faced an average of 29.22 shots per game, fifth-fewest in the league, though Kansas City’s shot production has been a lackluster 29.27, too.

Really, when it comes to goaltending, the more interesting thing may be happening in Kansas City. The best player of the conference finals – either series – was Mavericks goalie Jack LaFontaine, who was 3-0 with  0.94 GAA and a .972 SP. 

Kansas City’s Cale Morris was 1-2 with a 2.72 GAA and a .902 SP – still good numbers, but on the surface, you’d think LaFontaine would be the Game 1 starter, right? Not so fast. 

With only one exception, O’Had has alternated goalies throughout the playoffs, and it’s Morris’ turn in line. 

The last team to win a Kelly Cup platooning goalies was Alaska in 2014, but that’s not entirely true – the Aces changed course when the finals came and rode Gerald Coleman to a six-game victory, and he did have a stinker of a game in there. 

Will O’Had stick to what’s been working or go with LaFontaine? 

I’m betting he keeps the rotation, though I would play LaFontaine for Game 1, and see how that goes.

Two Players To Watch in Florida-Kansas City Series

Florida’s Matthew Wedman was in the AHL with the Calgary Wranglers when the Fort Wayne Komets shipped his rights to the Everblades in a March trade-deadline deal. It wasn’t clear if Wedman would join Florida, but he did just in time for the playoffs. 

Wedman has racked up some points – four goals and 13 points in 18 games – but he brings so much more: faceoff wins, a big 6-foot-3 body in front of the net, toughness and leadership. He’s one of those guys you watch and wonder: “How is he not in the AHL? He has all the tools.” 

Before you say it, I’ve never heard anyone question him being good in the locker room. I’m betting after this series, he will start next season in the AHL, where he’s played 137 games before age 26.

Kansas City forward Jake Jaremko has flown a little under the radar this season because of the star power in Independence, Missouri, but he had a fine campaign with 15 goals and 27 points in 49 games. That’s kind of what I like about him: He’s like a cobra, you might not notice him until he strikes. 

During the regular season, he scored on 20.3% of his shots – second on the team to Nolan Walker’s 32.1% – and he’s still at a 14.3% clip in the playoffs. 

And look at his setup of Coskey for an overtime winner against Toledo

Here’s the really fun part: Jaremko skated his rookie season with the Everblades and helped them to the 2022 Kelly Cup, scoring two goals and nine points in the postseason. He might have some insight into scoring on Johnson.

X-Factor In Florida-Kansas City Series

Physical play.

All season, I raved about Kansas City’s willingness to play a physical hockey game. The reality is, though, they haven’t faced a team in the postseason that will come at them with the body as consistently as Florida.

The Everblades had to have a blue-collar, muck-and-grind mentality throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, and every step of the way, they effectively shut down opposing playmakers. Adirondack’s Tristan Ashbrook, Shane Harper and Yushiroh Hirano were kept totally off their games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Everblades are going to have to bring hits, aggressive forechecks and shot blocking to do the same against the just-as-deep Kansas City forward corps. But, if they can get them off their game, as the Walleye were able to do surprisingly well, Florida has a shot.

Aggressiveness gets Florida into some trouble though. 

Adirondack got 24 power plays in the six games. It scored only one goal with the man-advantage. While Kansas City’s power play has surprisingly never been all that formidable – it’s at 16.7% in the playoffs – if it gets 24 chances against Florida it’s going to score some goals. Florida has to stay physical and stay out of the box.

As for the Mavericks, they’re going to have to use their bodies to keep the sightlines clear for their goalies, and the Mavericks actually have upped their hits per game from nine in the regular season to 13 during the Western Conference Finals.

Florida likes to hunker down in the front of the net and create screens. It was effective with that in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Kansas City’s defenseman are fundamentally sound and willing to engage, so seeing them go against Florida’s top two lines is going to be compelling. But they did a great job containing Toledo’s playmaker in the last round.

Prediction For Florida Everblades-Kansas City Mavericks Series

I’ve correctly picked the winner of 12 of 14 series so far, missing only when I picked Florida to lose to Jacksonville in the first round and Adirondack to lose to Norfolk in the second round. I bring this up not to brag – OK, maybe a little – but more to demonstrate that everything before this was easy by comparison.

All season, Kansas City has been the most consistently good team, but Florida, I always had it in the back of my mind that the Everblades were going to have a good chance of getting back here. 

With the exception of goaltending and coaching, Kansas City has the edge on paper in almost everything, but Florida again has developed an aura about it – it just keeps knocking off everything in its path. That makes me think it’ll be a long series, but a long series seems to benefit Florida – even with Games 6 and 7 on the road.

Ultimately, it’s hard to pick against a team that hasn’t lost more than two consecutive games all season, has such a deep contingent of forwards, has home-ice advantage and didn’t have to travel from Glens Falls, New York, from a game Tuesday. 

So I’m picking Kanas City in six games, but I don’t mind admitting I don’t feel great about it. If Florida steals Games 1 or 2, this is going to get very interesting.

Watch ECHL, USHL And More On FloHockey

FloHockey is the streaming home to some of the best hockey leagues in North America, including the ECHL and more. Check out the broadcast schedule to watch more hockey.

Join The Hockey Conversation On FloHockey Social