Defending Kelly Cup champ Reading eliminated by Fort Wayne

Doyle Woody,Adn Staff

The ECHL's defending Kelly Cup champion Reading Royals, seeded No. 1 in the East, are toast -- No. 8 seed Fort Wayne used Aaron Clarke's goal 6:45 into double OT tonight to deliver a 2-1 win and send the Royals packing in five games of the opening-round series.

That leaves Toledo (1994, 1993) and Hampton Roads (1992, 1991) as the only franchises to win consecutive league championships in the circuit's 26-season history.

Reading included a ton of Alaska connections: Former UAA winger Sean Wiles, who had its only goal tonight; former Alaska Aces center Ethan Cox, who assisted on Wiles' goal; defenseman and former Ace (briefly), and former UAF blueliner Bryant Molle of Anchorage; former Aces forward Ryan Cruthers; and former UAF defenseman Aaron Gens.

Though the series pitted an 8 seed against a 1 seed, only 12 points separated the teams in the regular season. In the Western Conference, where the No. 1-seeded Aces swept the No. 8-seeded Las Vegas Wranglers, that spread was a staggering 49 points.

In the Eastern Conference, the two teams eliminated were the No. 1 seed (Reading) and No. 3 seed (South Carolina, which lost to No. 6 Wheeling in a sweep).

In the Western Conference, eliminated already were the No. 2 seed (Ontario, swept by No. 7 Stockton), the No. 3 seed (Utah, beaten by No. 6 Bakersfield in five games) and the No. 8 seed (Las Vegas).

The Aces await the winner of the Idaho Steelheads-Colorado Eagles series, which Idaho leads 3-2 entering Game 6 Monday in Boise. Regardless of the opponent, the Aces open their conference semifinal series with games Thursday and Friday nights at Sullivan Arena.

The Bako-Stockton series opens Friday night in Bako.