PRINCETON, N.J. – Florida, trying to become the second team to secure its Kelly Cup Playoff berth and three division games in both the North and the West highlight the 11 games in the ECHL on Friday, a day when fans are being encouraged to show their support for hockey by their attendance at games.
The Everblades can become the second team to secure a playoff berth, joining Pensacola which clinched its spot last weekend. Florida, which advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals last season, enters the weekend needing four points from wins, overtime losses or shootout losses or Pee Dee losses. The Everblades arrive in Greenville on Friday with a six-game winning streak and have won their last two road games. Greenville, however, has won the only two meetings, beating Florida 5-1 on November 24 and 3-2 on November 26 with both games in Estero.
Defending Kelly Cup Champion Idaho is 3-0-2 on its current eight-game road trip and only three points out of the last playoff spot in the West Division with a game in hand on fourth-place Fresno. Idaho plays at Louisiana on Thursday, but does not play on Friday.
The top two teams in the West will meet again on Friday when Alaska visits Bakersfield while Fresno travels to Las Vegas and Long Beach visits San Diego. Alaska, which won 5-2 at Fresno on Tuesday to improve to 12-1-1 in its last 14 road games, is 39-16-7 with 85 points, four points ahead of Bakersfield at 36-17-9. Bakersfield is 2-0-0 at home and 3-1-1 overall against Alaska.
Fresno looks to get back on track, losing its last two games and going 4-3-0 in March after being 8-1-3 in February and 10-3-1 in January. The Falcons have won the last six meetings with the Wranglers and are 6-1-0 overall and 3-0-0 at Las Vegas.
Going 0-2-2 in their last four games and 1-4-3 in their last eight, Long Beach is in third place at 35-18-8 and 78 points, three points behind Bakersfield and three points ahead of Fresno and six points ahead of Idaho. San Diego, which is 31-23-6 with 68 points, has won the last four meetings with the Ice Dogs, improving to 2-0-0 at home and 4-1-0 overall.
The race in the North has five teams separated by four points battling for four postseason berths while a sixth team, which has won seven of its last 10 games, is only six points out of fourth place. Atlantic City, which plays at Wheeling on Thursday, is the latest team to sit atop the standings at 34-19-8 and 76 points followed by Reading, which hosts Dayton on Thursday, at 35-18-5 and 75 points and Wheeling at 35-21-4 and 74 points. Trenton at 32-19-9 holds onto the final playoff spot with 73 points, ahead of Toledo at 34-22-4 and 72 points and Peoria, which visits Johnstown on Thursday, at 30-21-7 and 67 points.
Atlantic City will host Peoria on Friday while Trenton travels to Toledo and Wheeling hosts Johnstown. The Bullies are winless in the last five meetings against Peoria, falling to 1-5-0 and 0-2-0 at home against the Rivermen. Wheeling has won the last five meetings with Johnstown, improving to 5-1-0 overall and 3-0-0 at home against the Chiefs. Trenton is 2-0-0 at Toledo and 5-1-0 overall against the Storm, whose only victory was 7-5 at Trenton on February 16. Toledo is 20-8-1 at home while Trenton is 1-2-1 in its last four road games and 13-11-5 overall on the road.
Pensacola will travel to Augusta on Friday and Mississippi visits Gwinnett while South Carolina hosts Columbia and Pee Dee hosts Charlotte and the Kelly Cup Tour. Going 19-3-1 in its last 23 games to improve to 41-14-5 and 87 points, the Ice Pilots sit atop the ECHL and have set Pensacola team records for wins and road wins (20) and need only two points to tie the team record for points. Pensacola is 3-0-1 against Augusta, losing 3-2 in a shootout on November 26 in the only meeting at Augusta.
Charlotte won the last time at Pee Dee to improve to 1-1-2 at Florence and 4-1-2 overall against the Pride. The Checkers hold the second seed in the American Conference as the leader of the East Division at 36-21-5 and 77 points, three points ahead of South Carolina at 33-20-8. The Stingrays, who have won their last six home games to improve to 22-6-2 at home, are 3-1-0 at home and 5-4-0 overall against Columbia. Gwinnett is in sixth place in the conference at 31-19-8 and 70 points, two points behind Columbia and one point ahead of Mississippi at 32-22-5 and 69 points. The Sea Wolves have won the last two meetings, but Gwinnett is 2-1-0 at home and 2-2-2 overall against Mississippi.