The 2002 Lewis Cup Finals began on May 29 in Seattle. It was Seattle’s first time in the Finals since 1985 while the Miami Stingrays made their first appearance. Across the city of Seattle, Grey Wolves colors could be seen everywhere. The Space Needle had a giant banner with the words “Go Wolves!!” hanging from it.
Miami opened the scoring in game one with a point shot that was deflected by Jonas Andersson. The lead didn’t last long though, as Drake Klausen tied it just two minutes later. Two quick goals from Jason Radford and Randy McAllen gave Seattle a 3-1 lead and Miami never recovered, as the Wolves took a 1-0 series lead. Game two was all Seattle, as Olli Heikkinen and Luke Mann each scored while Sean Harrington made 34 saves in a 2-0 Seattle win.
The series shifted to Miami for game 3, where the excitement throughout south Florida was at least equal to that in Seattle. The Castillo Center was packed with screaming fans nearly an hour before puck drop. With the crowd behind them, the Stingrays jumped to an early 2-0 lead with goals from Eric Moon and Theo Sprouse. The lead held until the beginning of the third period, when Randy McAllen’s powerplay goal cut the lead to 2-1. With 1:21 left, the Wolves pulled Harrington and pressed hard for the tying goal, until Stingrays captain Jeremy Sutton shot the puck the length of the ice into the empty net to seal the win.
After a hard-fought win in game 3, the Stingrays were still alive. “I think we have the momentum we need to get back in this series” said Sutton. “We just can’t stop pushing.” Game four went into overtime with the game tied 1-1. Both Sean Harrington and Brandon Ward stood on their heads in net as both teams had several quality chances. Just as the second overtime began, Eric Moon thought he had the winner, even raising his arms in celebration. But Harrington made one of the most spectacular saves in Lewis Cup Finals history, spinning around to swat the puck out with his stick. 40 seconds later, Syong Li hit Klausen with a pass and Klausen made no mistake, beating Ward to give the Grey Wolves a 2-1 win and a chance to claim the cup on home ice. The Stingrays tried to stay positive, but it was obvious that the loss affected them, especially after Moon’s missed opportunity. “That’s a tough one to take to be honest” said Moon. “We just need to find a way to regroup for game five.”
Both teams came out flying in game five, with four goals coming in the first ten minutes as the teams entered the second period tied 2-2. The Stingrays took the lead early in the second on a goal from Sutton, but Jason Radford quickly tied it. The 3-3 tie held until just under two minutes left in the third period, where Drake Klausen scored to give Seattle a stunning last-minute lead. Miami suddenly found themselves scrambling to tie the game, where Derek Snyder nearly beat Harrington to send it to overtime. But Jean-Francois Belanger cleared the puck into the empty Miami net to secure Seattle’s first-ever Lewis Cup victory. Drake Klausen was named playoff MVP with 17 goals in 24 playoff games. The victory was especially sweet for longtime captain Jason Radford, the only remaining player who had suited up for the Wolves in the 1985 final, and for Syong Li, who took nearly a decade to make the PHL after being drafted, then played for four teams in five years as well as several minor league teams before landing in Seattle in the summer of 2001. “This was a collective effort” said head coach Bruce Dickenson. “Everybody played their role to perfection, that’s why we’re the champions.”