PRINCETON, N.J. – Gwinnett and Florida became the latest teams to clinch a berth in the Kelly Cup Playoffs when the Gladiators beat South Carolina 5-3 on Thursday. Ten teams have now secured a trip to the postseason while another 13 remain in the race for the remaining eight spots.
Florida leads the South Division with 86 points while Gwinnett and Texas, which needs only one point to secure its postseason spot, are tied for second with 85 points. Augusta and Charlotte are tied for fourth place with 79 points, which is two points ahead of South Carolina. The three will be battling for two remaining playoff spots.
There is only one berth left in the National Conference and it is currently held by Phoenix with 57 points, six points more than Long Beach and Utah, who are tied for ninth place.
There are four remaining postseason spots in the North Division, as only Dayton has clinched, and all six teams are still in contention. Cincinnati needs only one point to secure its berth and Toledo is in third place and can clinch its spot in the postseason on Friday. Trenton is in fourth place with 71 points, four points in front of Reading, which holds the fifth and final spot with 67 points, three points ahead of Johnstown and Wheeling.
Florida Everblades at Texas Wildcatters on Friday and Saturday
It is the last regular season meeting between the two teams who are separated by a single point for the South Division lead. Florida is 40-20-6 with 86 points while Texas is 38-20-9 with 85 points. The Wildcatters won the last meeting 4-1 on Dec. 30 to improve to 2-0-1 at home and 5-2-1 overall against Florida this season. Florida has not missed the Kelly Cup Playoffs since joining the league in 1998-99 and in 2004 and 2005 the Everblades advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals. The Wildcatters, who are looking for their first trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs since they relocated to Beaumont in 2003-04, have set team highs with 38 wins, 19 road wins and 19 home wins after being unable to play last season in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
Alaska Aces at Las Vegas Wranglers on Friday and Saturday
Las Vegas is 40-12-14 with 94 points and can move into a tie for the ECHL lead with a pair of regulation wins against Alaska, which is 46-15-6 with 98 points. The Wranglers won 4-2 at Las Vegas on Feb. 13 to improve to 1-0-0 at home and 4-0-0 overall this season and 17-12-1 all-time in the regular season against the Aces. Alaska has already clinched the West Division and is trying to become the first team to repeat as regular season champion. The Aces and Wranglers finished first and second last season with 113 points and 112 points, respectively, and tied for the league lead with 53 wins each. Their point totals were the second-highest and third-highest point totals in ECHL history behind only Louisiana’s record of 116 points in 2001-02. The 53 wins tied them with Florida in 1999-2000 for the second-highest total in league history, three wins behind Louisiana’s record of 56 wins in 2001-02. Alaska and Las Vegas are looking to become the only team besides Trenton (104 points in 2000-01 and 102 points in 2001-02) to score 100 points in back-to-back seasons. Alaska became only the second team to win both the regular season and postseason championships in the same season in 2006 joining the South Carolina Stingrays who won both the Kelly Cup and the Brabham Cup in 1997.
Long Beach Ice Dogs at Idaho Steelheads on Friday and Saturday
Long Beach is still fighting for the eighth and final postseason berth in the National Conference while Idaho is battling to secure home-ice advantage for the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Long Beach is 24-39-3 and tied for ninth place with Utah with 51 points, six points behind Phoenix. The Steelheads are 38-24-5 with 81 points, three points in front of Stockton and five points ahead of Fresno. The Ice Dogs are looking for their third straight Kelly Cup Playoffs appearance while Idaho has advanced to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in every one of its first four seasons including 2003-04 when they became only the second expansion team in ECHL history and the first since 1990 to win the championship.
South Carolina Stingrays at Augusta Lynx on Friday and Saturday
Augusta and Charlotte are tied for fourth place with 79 points and currently hold the last two Kelly Cup Playoff berths in the South Division. South Carolina is two points behind in sixth place. The Lynx have won the last two meetings, 6-5 in a shootout on Mar. 22 and 2-1 in overtime on Feb. 20, to improve to 3-1-0 at home and 5-4-0 overall this season against the Stingrays. Augusta is trying to make its first back-to-back Kelly Cup Playoff appearances since 2000 and 2001 while the Stingrays have not missed the postseason in any of their 13 seasons since joining the ECHL in 1993-94. South Carolina holds the league record for most playoff appearances and consecutive playoff appearances and in 1997 and 2001 won the Kelly Cup.
Cincinnati Cyclones at Wheeling Nailers on Friday and Saturday
Wheeling has back-to-back overtime wins to extend its season-high winning streak to six games. The Nailers are 29-31-6 and tied for sixth place with Johnstown at 64 points, three points behind Reading for the fifth and final playoff spot in the North Division. Cincinnati is 35-26-5 with 75 points and needs only one point to clinch its berth in the postseason. Wheeling won the last meeting 4-2 at Cincinnati on Mar. 20 and leads the season series 5-4-0 including 2-1-0 at home. The Cyclones, who had a voluntary suspension for each of the last two years, are trying to reach the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the third time in their four seasons, including 2003 when they lost in Game 7 of the conference finals to eventual champion Atlantic City. The Nailers have reached the Kelly Cup Playoffs twice in the last three years and advanced to the division finals last season.
Victoria Salmon Kings at Utah Grizzlies on Friday and Saturday
Utah, which reached the postseason in its first season in 2006-07, is still fighting for the eighth and final postseason berth in the National Conference. The Grizzlies are 22-38-7 and tied for ninth place with Long Beach with 51 points, six points behind Phoenix. Victoria won 7-1 at Utah on Wednesday to qualify for the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the first time in its three-year history.
Dayton Bombers at Johnstown Chiefs on Saturday
Dayton is 35-22-8 and leads the North Division with 78 points, which is 32 points more than a year ago, and three points more than second-place Cincinnati. It is the most wins and points for the Bombers since their last postseason appearance in 2001-02 when they finished first in the division with 92 points (40-20-12) and advanced the Kelly Cup Finals. Johnstown is 29-31-6 with 64 points and tied for sixth place with Wheeling, three points behind Reading. The Chiefs are trying for their 12th postseason appearance and their first back-to-back trips to the Kelly Cup Playoffs since 2001 and 2002. Dayton won the last meeting 3-2 on Mar. 25 to improve to 4-0-0 at Johnstown and 6-1-2 overall against the Chiefs this season.
Columbia Inferno at Charlotte Checkers on Saturday
Charlotte and Augusta are tied for fourth place with 79 points and currently hold the last two Kelly Cup Playoff berths in the South Division. The Checkers are 2-1-0 at home and 5-2-0 overall this season against Columbia, which won the last meeting 3-2 on Mar. 18. The Checkers, who have won their last three games and are 7-2-0 in their last nine games, are trying to reach the postseason three consecutive years for the first time since advancing each of its first five seasons from 1994-98.
Pensacola Ice Pilots at Gwinnett Gladiators on Saturday
Heading to the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the fourth consecutive year since relocating to Georgia in 2003-04, the Gladiators begin the weekend with 85 points and are tied for second place in the South Division with Texas, one point behind Florida. Gwinnett, which reached the Kelly Cup Finals a year ago and the conference finals in 2004, has won the last two meetings and is 4-0-0 at home and 6-2-0 overall against the Ice Pilots this season.
Trenton Titans at Toledo Storm on Saturday
Toledo is 35-28-3 and in third place in the North Division with 73 points, two points in front of Trenton at 33-29-5. The Storm won the last meeting 3-2 at Trenton on Mar. 10 and is 5-3-1 overall and 3-2-0 at home against the Titans, who won the last meeting in Toledo 4-2 on Mar. 3. The Titans have reached the playoffs in every season but one since joining the league in 1999-2000 and won the Kelly Cup in 2005 and reached the Kelly Cup Finals in 2001. Toledo, which reached the conference finals a year ago, is trying to reach the postseason for three straight years for the first time since it qualified in each of its first eight seasons from 1991-99.
Phoenix RoadRunners at Fresno Falcons on Saturday
Phoenix, which did not qualify for the Kelly Cup Playoffs in its inaugural season in 2005-06, currently holds the last postseason spot in the National Conference and has a six-point lead on Long Beach and Utah following its win at Bakersfield on Wednesday. Fresno is 34-25-8 and in sixth place in the conference with 76 points, two points behind Stockton and five points behind Idaho. The Falcons won the last meeting 4-3 at Phoenix on Mar. 24 and lead the season series 4-2-0 including 2-1-0 at Fresno.
Stockton Thunder at Bakersfield Condors on Saturday
Stockton is 34-22-10 and in fifth place in the conference with 78 points, three points behind Idaho for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, while Bakersfield is 40-16-11 with 91 points and has already secured home ice for the opening round. The Thunder has won the last two meetings and is 4-1-2 overall and 2-0-1 at Bakersfield against the Condors this year. Stockton is making its’ first-ever playoff appearance in its second season while Bakersfield has reached the postseason each of the last three years.
Scores, standings and Kelly Cup Playoffs information can be found at ECHL.com.