The start of the 2014 Kelly Cup Playoffs is still about two weeks away, but a playoff atmosphere will be present in Reading this weekend as the Royals host the Kalamazoo Wings at Santander Arena on Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. both nights.
Reading clinched the Atlantic Division title on Wednesday with a 6-2 win over Orlando, and enters the weekend 43-21-3 for 89 points, two points ahead of Kalamazoo which is 40-20-7 for 87 points.
The Royals, who were the number one seed in the Eastern Conference last season on their way to the first Kelly Cup title in team history, defeated the K-Wings 4-2 in their last head-to-head meeting in Kalamazoo on March 21. However, the K-Wings have won four of the first six meetings entering the weekend.
Both teams have enjoyed postseason success in the last several seasons as the Royals advanced to the American Conference Finals in 2010 in addition to last season’s championship. Kalamazoo will be back in the postseason after failing to qualify last season, but the K-Wings advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012 one year after falling to Alaska 4 games to 1 in the 2011 Kelly Cup Finals.
Several rookies have enjoyed the spotlight for both clubs this season. Reading’s Domenic Monardo leads all ECHL rookies with 26 goals, which is two more than Kalamazoo rookie Matt Caria, who is tied for second among first-year players with 54 points. Royals’ defenseman Michal Cajkovsky is tied for sixth among all ECHL defensemen, and leads rookie blueliners, with 35 points (13g-23a) in 62 games. Kalamazoo rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington ranks third among first-year goaltenders with a 2.38 goals-against average, and he is tied for fifth overall in the league with a .921 save percentage.
Both teams will have three games remaining after this weekend with the K-Wings visiting Cincinnati (April 9) and Toledo (April 11) and hosting Evansville (April 12) while the Royals end the season on the road at Florida (April 9 and April 11) and Orlando (April 12).