Northern Conference Playoff Battles Remain Tight

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the battle for berths in the 2003 Kelly Cup Playoffs continues.

In the Northern Conference, the four teams with the highest regular season point totals in each division will qualify for the playoffs. In the Southern Conference, the five teams with the highest regular season point totals in each division will qualify for the playoffs. In each division, the fourth-place finisher hosts the fifth-place finisher in a Wild Card Game on April 1 with the winner advancing to the Southern Conference Division Semifinals.

In the Northeast Division, Atlantic City is in first place with 86 points while Roanoke is in second place with 80 points. Greensboro and Trenton currently hold the third and fourth playoff spots with 79 and 78 points, respectively, while Charlotte remains in the race with 77 points. Roanoke has nine games remaining while Atlantic City, Greensboro and Trenton each have eight games and Charlotte has seven games left.

Atlantic City will play seven of its last eight games against Northeast Division opponents. The Boardwalk Bullies play Charlotte, Reading and Trenton each two more times and Greensboro once more. Atlantic City plays at Charlotte on Tuesday and Friday and visits Reading on Saturday. The Boardwalk Bullies will play at Greensboro on March 25, host Trenton on March 28 and play at Trenton on March 29 before hosting Reading in the final game of the season on March 30.

Four of Greensboro’s remaining eight games will be against Northeast Division foes. The Generals, who play Monday and Tuesday at Florida, visit Roanoke on Sunday before hosting Atlantic City on March 25, Roanoke on March 26 and Charlotte on March 28.

Trenton has five games remaining within the division including Friday at Reading. The Titans will visit Roanoke on March 25 and Atlantic City on March 28 while hosting Richmond on March 26 and Atlantic City on March 29. Charlotte plays five of its final seven games within the division. In addition to their two games with Atlantic City, the Checkers host Roanoke on Saturday and will travel to Greensboro on March 28 and Richmond on March 29.

Reading and Richmond are both mathematically still alive in the postseason although both could face elimination as early as Tuesday. Richmond could be eliminated on Tuesday, if Greensboro gets a point either Monday or Tuesday at Florida and Trenton wins in regulation at Dayton on Tuesday. Reading would be eliminated on Tuesday, if Greensboro gets a point either Monday or Tuesday at Florida and Trenton wins in regulation at Dayton while Reading loses in regulation at Cincinnati.

In the Northwest Division, Toledo and Peoria have both qualified while Lexington and Cincinnati presently hold the third and fourth playoff spots with 69 points and 68 points, respectively. Johnstown is still mathematically alive, five points behind Cincinnati and six points behind Lexington. Cincinnati has nine games remaining while Johnstown and Lexington each have six games remaining. Johnstown and Lexington play each other for the final time on Wednesday at Johnstown. Cincinnati plays Johnstown for the final time when it hosts the Chiefs on Friday and plays Lexington for the last time when it hosts the Men O’ War on Saturday.

Dayton will miss the playoffs for the first time in its 12 seasons in the ECHL while Wheeling does not advance to the postseason for the fifth consecutive season. The Bombers’ 11 consecutive appearances in the playoffs tied the ECHL record for most consecutive postseason appearances held by Hampton Roads, which made the postseason in each of its 11 seasons in the league from 1990-2000. The 11 postseason appearances is also an ECHL record tied in 2002-03 by Pee Dee, which has qualified for the sixth straight season since moving to South Carolina in 1997 and for the 11th time in its history, including five appearances by the Knoxville Cherokees from 1988-97.

Greenville, Augusta and Columbus are all still alive in the battle for the fifth and final playoff berth in the Southeast Division. Greenville holds a seven-point lead on Augusta, which is three points ahead of Columbus. Greenville has six games remaining including two with Augusta, visiting the Lynx on March 21 and hosting the Lynx on March 29. Augusta and Columbus each have seven games remaining, including the final meeting of the season between the two on Saturday at Augusta.

The Northeast Division Semifinals and the Northwest Division Semifinals are best-of-five series and will be played April 1-10. The Northeast Division Finals and the Northwest Division Finals are best-of-five series and will be played April 11-20. The Northern Conference Finals are best-of-seven series and will be played April 22-May 4.

The Southeast Division Semifinals and the Southwest Division Semifinals are best-of-five series and will be played April 2-10. The Southeast Division Finals and the Southwest Division Finals are best-of-five series and will be played April 11-20. The Southern Conference Finals are best-of-seven series and will be played April 22-May 4.

The Kelly Cup Finals are a best-of-seven series and will be played May 6-19.