Key matchups ahead as season enters home stretch
With just over three weeks remaining in the ECHL regular season, playoff spots and positioning take center stage with some important head-to-head matchups on the upcoming schedule.
The defending Kelly Cup champion Florida Everblades are currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with a seven-point edge over both Kalamazoo and Fort Wayne. Florida will play both of those clubs this week on its four-game road trip to the North Division. The Everblades open the trip on Wednesday against Cincinnati before visiting the Komets on Friday and Saturday and the K-Wings on Sunday.
Cincinnati currently leads the Eastern Conference with 82 points, and is one of the hottest teams in the ECHL, winning seven straight games and posting a 13-3-1 record in its last 14 games.
Fort Wayne picked up five out of a possible six points last week, defeating Toledo on Wednesday before dropping a shootout at South Carolina on Friday and defeating the Stingrays in a shootout on Saturday. The Komets, who are idle until the two games against Florida this weekend, play eight of their final 12 games at home, where they lead the ECHL with 7,469 fans per game.
Kalamazoo opens a four-game home stand against Evansville on Friday. The K-Wings play nine of their final 13 games at home as they look to advance to the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
Wheeling, which went 2-0-1 last weekend, is eight points behind Florida for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Nailers have played 58 games, the fewest in the conference, and will host Elmira on Wednesday before hitting the road for games at Trenton on Friday and at Reading on Saturday.
The race for the top spot in the South Division is hotly contested as the top for teams in the division are separated by just five points. Gwinnett currently leads the way with 73 points, three points ahead of Greenville, while South Carolina is third with 69 points followed by Florida with 68 points.
The Gladiators wrap up their season-long nine-game road trip this week traveling to Utah on Wednesday and Idaho on Friday and Saturday. Following the road trip, Gwinnett plays six of its final seven games at home.
South Carolina hosts Greenville for a key three-game series at the North Charleston Coliseum on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Stingrays have gone 6-1-3 in their last 10 games, and have posted a 12-3-3 record in their last 18 contests.
Only two playoff spots remain up for grabs in the Western Conference. Las Vegas and Colorado clinched postseason berths over the weekend, with Utah (54 points) and San Francisco (49 points) currently in possession of seventh and eighth place in the conference, respectively. The Grizzlies host Gwinnett on Wednesday and Colorado on Friday and Saturday while San Francisco hosts Alaska on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and Las Vegas on Sunday. Bakersfield trails San Francisco by eight points for the final playoff spot, and is home for games against Ontario on Friday and Saturday.