ECHL Announces Kelly Cup Playoffs Format

PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL on Tuesday announced the format for the 2005 Kelly Cup Playoffs. The format was approved by the ECHL Board of Governors at its Annual Meeting held June 10-11 in Atlanta.

Every team begins the season with the goal of winning the Patrick J. Kelly Cup, presented annually to the ECHL Postseason Champion and won in 2004 by the Idaho Steelheads, who defeated the Florida Everblades in the first coast-to-coast Kelly Cup Finals.

To reflect its national presence the ECHL renamed its conferences, the American Conference and the National Conference. The divisions in the American Conference will be the East Division and the South Division while the divisions in the National Conference will be the North Division and the West Division.

The playoff qualifiers in the National Conference will be the top four teams with the highest regular-season point total from the North Division and the top four teams with the highest regular-season point total from the West Division. The Division Semifinals will be best-of-five series with the first-place finisher meeting the fourth-place finisher and the second-place finisher meeting the third-place finisher. The winners of the Division Semifinals will advance to the Division Finals which is also a best-of-five series. The winners of the Division Finals will meet in the best-of-seven Conference Finals to determine the National Conference Champion and representative in the best-of-seven Kelly Cup Finals.

Because of geographical proximity in the American Conference, first-round playoff berths will be awarded to the top eight (8) teams – the first-place team in each division (based on regular-season point totals in each conference), as well as the next six-best teams (based on regular-season point totals in each conference). The two division winners will be seeded first and second (in order of points) and the next six-best teams (in order of points) will be seeded third through eighth.

In the Conference Quarterfinals, the first-place team will meet the eighth-place team, the second-place team will meet the seventh-place team, the third-place team will meet the sixth-place team, and the fourth-place team will meet the fifth-place team. Home ice in the Conference Quarterfinals is granted to those teams seeded first through fourth.

In the Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals, teams will be reseeded according to the same criteria as the Conference Quarterfinals (division leaders will be seeded first and granted home-ice advantage while the remaining teams will be seeded in order of regular-season points).

The winners of the best-of-five Conference Semifinals advance to the best-of-seven Conference Finals to determine the American Conference Champion and representative in the best-of-seven Kelly Cup Finals.

American Conference (14 teams)

East Division (7 teams) – Charlotte Checkers, Columbia Inferno, Greensboro Generals, Greenville Grrrowl, Pee Dee Pride, Roanoke Express and South Carolina Stingrays.

South Division (7 teams) – Augusta Lynx, Florida Everblades, Gwinnett Gladiators, Louisiana IceGators, Mississippi Sea Wolves, Pensacola Ice Pilots and Texas Wildcatters.

National Conference (16 teams)

North Division (8 teams) – Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies, Dayton Bombers, Johnstown Chiefs, Peoria Rivermen, Reading Royals, Toledo Storm, Trenton Titans and Wheeling Nailers.

West Division (8 teams) – Alaska Aces, Bakersfield Condors, Fresno Falcons, Idaho Steelheads, Las Vegas Wranglers, Long Beach Ice Dogs, San Diego Gulls and Victoria Salmon Kings.

Began in 1988 with five teams in three states, the ECHL welcomed nine new markets in 2003-04 and played with 31 teams in 17 states across five time zones. In 2004-05, the league will play with 30 teams in 17 states and one Canadian province as it welcomes the Victoria Salmon Kings, who become first ECHL team outside of the United States, playing in Victoria, British Columbia.

Beginning on October 22 and concluding on April 9, 2005, each of the teams will play a 72-game schedule comprised of 36 home and 36 road games. The Premier “AA” Hockey League, the ECHL had affiliation agreements with 21 of the 30 teams in the NHL and 21 of the 28 teams in the AHL in 2003-04.

2005 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs

National Conference

Division Semifinals (Best-of-Five Series)

No. 1 Seed (Division Winner) vs. No. 4 Seed
No. 2 Seed vs. No. 3 Seed

Division Finals (Best-of-Five Series)

Winner of No. 1 Seed/No. 4 Seed vs. Winner of No. 2 Seed/No. 3 Seed

National Conference Final (Best-of-Seven Series)

North Division Champion vs. West Division Champion

American Conference

Quarterfinals (Best-of-Five Series)

No. 1 Seed (Division Winner) vs. No. 8 Seed
No. 2 Seed (Division Winner) vs. No. 7 Seed
No. 3 Seed vs. No. 6 Seed
No. 4 Seed vs. No. 5 Seed

* Winners reseeded for Conference Semifinals

Semifinals (Best-of-Five Series)

No. 1 Seed vs. No. 4 Seed
No. 2 Seed vs. No. 3 Seed

American Conference Finals (Best-of-Seven Series)

Winner of No. 1 Seed/No. 4 Seed vs. Winner of No. 2 Seed/No. 3 Seed

2005 Kelly Cup Finals (Best-of-Seven Series)

National Conference Champion vs. American Conference Champion