It's amazing how much can change in one year.
After finishing in the cellar of their conference the past two seasons, the Dayton Bombers are ready to battle the Idaho Steelheads in the Kelly Cup Finals for the East Coast Hockey League National Championship, which begins in Idaho on Wednesday night at 7:10 p.m.
Very few thought the Bombers, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ ECHL affiliate, would make it this far, including many in their own locker room.
"Obviously, everybody's goal is to make the playoffs," said Bombers coach Don MacAdam, "I wouldn't think many people in that room would have put their money on us being in the finals though."
MacAdam feels this year's club exemplifies the qualities of a championship team. Adam Berkhoel, who was voted the best goaltender in the league, has been strong in net while the team boasts three effective and balanced lines.
"We have a lineup that doesn't consist of superstars," MacAdam said. "We don't have a first, second or third line. Everyone is capable of being a solid contributor."
The Bombers' trip to the finals has been anything but a cakewalk. After defeating the Cincinnati Cyclones in seven games, the Florida Everblades took Dayton to the brink for a second straight series. Once again, the Bombers prevailed, beating the Everblades 3-1 in the deciding game.
Where the team lacks "superstars", it makes up with leaders. MacAdam mentioned the consistent strong play of Brent Walton and Captain Greg Labensky, who continue to score big goals at opportune times.
The Kelly Cup Finals will mark the first time the Bombers and Steelheads meet this season. Petr Pohl, a fifth-round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft of the Blue Jackets, is expecting an exciting match-up.
"It will be interesting because we don't know much about them," Pohl said. "hey are a pretty good team and very similar to us. It will be a great series."
MacAdam, who will be coaching in his first ECHL finals, expressed an open invitation to all Blue Jackets fans to come support their affiliate.
"We'd love to get Blue Jackets fans to come out and watch the games," he said. "For the fans that haven’t seen ECHL hockey, they'd be very impressed."
The Bombers will play the first two games in Idaho before returning home to Dayton for the next three, beginning Sunday, May 27 at 8:00 p.m.Finals Schedule - all time are EST
Game 1: Wednesday, May 23 @Idaho - 3-1 W
Game 2: Friday, May 25 @Idaho - 9:10 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, May 27 @Dayton - 8 p.m.
Game 4: Tuesday, May 29 @Dayton - 7 p.m.
*Game 5: Thursday, May 31 @Dayton - 7 p.m.
*Game 6: Saturday, June 2 @Idaho - 9:10 p.m.
*Game 7: Tuesday, June 5 @Idaho - 9:10 p.m.
For more information on the Bombers, check out www.daytonbombers.com or to order tickets from Ticketmaster, click here.