The 2020-21 ECHL season has come to a conclusion with the Fort Wayne Komets earning their very first Kelly Cup championship by way of a 2-1 victory over the South Carolina Stingrays in Game 4 of the best-of-five finals.
Having started play in the unprecedented 2020-21 season back in mid-December, the league finished off its year by presenting the Kelly Cup to Fort Wayne in early July. The Komets narrowly edged South Carolina to pick up their first-ever ECHL championship in nine seasons in what was a battle of affiliate clubs that squared off in the 2018 Stanley Cup (Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights).
Fort Wayne emerged out of the Western Conference, after taking care of both the Wichita Thunder and Allen Americans, setting up a matchup with the Stingrays, who found themselves in the Kelly Cup due to strong postseason performances against the Florida Everblades and the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.
The game was played in front of a capacity crowd of 10,477 fans at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum, which marked the sixth-largest crowd in Riley/Cup Finals history – something somewhat surprising considering the current situation of the world, even back at the start of the 2020-21 season.
After seeing the Newfoundland Growlers win the 2019 Kelly Cup over Toledo in 2019, the league did not award a champion in 2020 as playoffs were called due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So this season’s presentation was that much more special for not only the members of the champion Komets, but also the league as a whole.
Finishing the year with a 29-17-5 record with a .618 points percentage through a league-low 51 games played, Fort Wayne actually has the second-fewest number of wins on the season, but due to its points percentage finished the season third in the West, earning a place in the postseason.
KELLY CUP CHAMPS pic.twitter.com/0AXHatdVtL
— Fort Wayne Komets (@FWKomets) July 3, 2021
Stephen Harper of the Komets earned the playoff MVP, to which he helped seal the deal on the Stingrays’ fate with two goals in Game 4. His 13 points led all postseason scorers, while his six goals ranked second. Brandon Hawkins put up both the most goals (five) and points (seven) in the final series. Dylan Ferguson led the way with an 8-4-0 record, a 2.93 goals against average and a .907 save percentage in the playoffs.
After pulling ahead 1-0 after a 7-2 victory in Game 1, the Komets fell 4-2 to South Carolina in the second game of the series on the road. Fort Wayne then rebounded with back-to-back narrow victories in games three and four, sealing the deal, by way of 6-4 and 2-1 wins at home.