The 2003 Kelly Cup Playoffs will open Tuesday with Florida hosting Greenville in the Southeast Division Wild Card Game, Jackson hosting Pensacola in the Southwest Division Wild Card Game and Peoria hosting Cincinnati in the opening game of the Northwest Division Semifinals.
The defending Kelly Cup Champion, Greenville didn’t qualify for the Kelly Cup Playoffs until Saturday when it won 7-3 over Augusta. Florida, which has not missed the postseason in each of first five seasons, is appearing in the Southeast Division Wild Card Game for the second straight year. Florida beat South Carolina 3-2 in the Wild Card Game in 2002 before being eliminated in the Southeast Division Semifinals by Greenville, three games to two. Jackson is appearing in the Southwest Division Wild Card Game for the second consecutive year also. The Bandits beat New Orleans in the Wild Card Game and Louisiana in the Southwest Division Semifinals, three games to two, in 2002 before being swept, three games to none, by Mississippi in the Southwest Division Finals.
The winner of the Southeast Division Wild Card Game will advance to the Southeast Division Semifinals against Columbia while the winner of the Southwest Division Wild Card Game will advance to the Southwest Division Semifinals against Mississippi.
The Division Semifinals are each a best-of-five series with the winners advancing to meet in the Kelly Cup Division Finals, which are also best-of-five series.
Toledo will host Lexington in the opening game of the Northwest Division Semifinals on Wednesday and Atlantic City hosts Trenton in the first game of the Northeast Division Semifinals. South Carolina hosts Pee Dee in the first game of the Southeast Division Semifinals on Wednesday and Louisiana hosts Arkansas in the opening game of the Southwest Division Semifinals.
Trenton qualified for the Kelly Cup Playoffs with a 7-2 win over Atlantic City in Trenton’s final regular season game on Saturday. The Titans’ win combined with Charlotte’s 6-3 loss at Richmond allowed Trenton to qualify for the postseason for the fifth time in its five-year history.
Atlantic City beat Reading 6-3 on Sunday to win the Northeast Division regular-season title, finishing one point ahead of Greensboro, who won 4-3 in a shootout at Greenville on Sunday. Greensboro hosts Roanoke in the opening game of the Northeast Division Semifinals on Thursday. The Boardwalk Bullies are appearing in the postseason for the second time in two years, and for the 10th time in the team’s 13-year history that includes two seasons in Cincinnati (1990-92) and nine seasons in Birmingham (1992-2001). The 10 postseason appearances ties for fourth all-time in postseason appearances.Pee Dee is appearing in the postseason for the sixth straight season since moving to South Carolina in 1997, and the 11th time in the team’s history that includes five appearances by the Knoxville Cherokees from 1988-97. The 11 appearances tie the ECHL record for most years in the playoffs held by Hampton Roads (1999-2000) and Dayton (1992-2002).
In their 10th season in the ECHL, South Carolina and Roanoke are both appearing in the playoffs for the 10th time, tying them for fourth all-time in postseason appearances. The Stingrays won the Kelly Cup in 1997 and 2001 and remain the only team in ECHL history to win both the Brabham Cup and the Kelly Cup in the same season, accomplishing the feat in 1996-97. Roanoke advanced to the Northern Conference Finals in 1999. Toledo is also making its 10th appearance in the postseason after missing the Kelly Cup Playoffs in 2002.
Louisiana has qualified for the playoffs in each of its eightseasons, advancing to the Kelly Cup Finals in 1997 and 2000 and the Southern Conference Finals in 1998 and 2001. Peoria has qualified for the postseason in each of its seven seasons, winning the Kelly Cup in 2000 while advancing to the Northern Conference Finals in 2001.