Northern Playoff Races Heat Up

Florida, Jackson and Pee Dee are the three latest teams to qualify for 2003 Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Florida and Pee Dee join Columbia and South Carolina in the Southeast Division while Jackson completes the Southwest Division playoff picture, joining Mississippi, Louisiana, Pensacola and Arkansas. Florida qualifies for the playoffs for the fifth time in its five-year history while Pee Dee qualifies 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. The 11 playoff appearances ties the ECHL record for most postseason appearances held by Hampton Roads which made the postseason in each of its 11 seasons in the league from 1990-2000, and Dayton which has qualified for the postseason in each of its first 11 seasons. Jackson is making its third straight appearance in the playoffs.

The battle for the last playoff spot in the Southeast Division is between Greenville, Augusta and Columbus. Greenville currently has the spot with 54 points, three points ahead of Augusta and four points ahead of Columbus. Greenville (24-32-6) and Columbus (21-33-8) each have 10 games remaining while Augusta (23-33-5) has 11 games remaining. Greenville has three games remaining with Augusta, hosting the Lynx in a makeup game on Monday and on March 29 and traveling to Augusta on March 21, and one game remaining with the Cottonmouths, traveling to Columbus on Sunday. Augusta and Columbus have one game remaining against each other on March 22 at Augusta.

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 Division Semifinals. 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.

In the Northwest Division, Peoria and Toledo have already qualified for the playoffs while Lexington and Cincinnati currently have the third and fourth spots. Lexington has 65 points and Cincinnati has 64 points while Johnstown is in fifth place with 59 points. Lexington (29-27-7) and Johnstown (25-29-9) each have nine games remaining while Cincinnati (29-24-6) has 13 games remaining. Cincinnati has two games remaining with both Johnstown, hosting the Chiefs on March 11 and 21, and Lexington, traveling to Lexington on March 14 and hosting the Men O’ War on March 22. Johnstown and Lexington play each other one final time on March 19 at Johnstown.

In the Northeast Division, Atlantic City is in first place with 84 points, seven points ahead of Greensboro and nine points ahead of Roanoke and Trenton, who are tied for third place with 75 points. Roanoke and Trenton are seven points ahead of Charlotte, eight points ahead of Reading and 11 points ahead of Richmond. Atlantic City (36-14-12) and Trenton (33-20-9) each have 10 games remaining and Greensboro (35-19-7) has 11 games remaining. Roanoke (35-20-5) and Charlotte (33-25-2) each has 12 games remaining while Reading (31-27-5) and Richmond (30-29-4) each has nine games remaining.

Seven of Atlantic City’s final 10 games will be against Northeast Division opponents, two games with Charlotte, Reading and Trenton and one game with Greensboro. Roanoke also has seven games remaining against division foes, two games with Charlotte and Greensboro and one game with Reading, Richmond and Trenton.Trenton will play six of its final 10 games against the Northeast Division, playing Atlantic City and Richmond each twice and Reading and Roanoke each once. Charlotte also has six remaining games against the division, two games with both Atlantic City and Roanoke and one game with Reading and Richmond.

Reading will play six of its final nine games against the Northeast, two games against Roanoke and Atlantic City and one game against Charlotte and Trenton. Six of Richmond’s final nine games will be within the division, two against Trenton, Charlotte and Roanoke. Only four of Greensboro’s final 11 games are within the division, two with Roanoke and one each with Atlantic City and Charlotte.

In the Northwest Division, Peoria and Toledo have each qualified for the playoffs and are battling for the regular season points titles. Peoria won back-to-back games against the Storm on Saturday and Sunday and is in first place with 91 points, two points ahead of Toledo. The two meet for the final two times in the regular season on Friday and Saturday at Toledo. Peoria (43-14-5) has 10 games remaining while Toledo (40-14-9) has nine games remaining.

Lexington and Cincinnati currently have the third and fourth playoff berths in the Northwest Division while Johnstown has won four consecutive games to keep its postseason hopes alive. Lexington (29-27-7) has 65 points and will play six of its remaining nine games within the division, three games with Wheeling, two games with Cincinnati and one game with Johnstown. Cincinnati (29-24-6) has 64 points and will play 11 of its last 13 games against division foes with three games against both Johnstown and Dayton, two games against both Lexington and Dayton, and one game with Wheeling. Johnstown (25-29-9) will play seven of its final nine games within the division, three games with Cincinnati, two games with Wheeling and one game with both Lexington and Toledo.

Dayton has qualified for the postseason in each of its first 11 seasons, but currently is 16 points behind fourth-place Cincinnati in the Northwest Division. The 11 playoff appearances ties the ECHL record for most postseason appearances and consecutive appearances held by Hampton Roads which made the postseason in each of its 11 seasons in the league from 1990-2000.

In the Northern Conference, the four teams with the highest regular season point totals in each division will qualify for the playoffs. 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 Kelly Cup Finals are a best-of-seven series and will be played May 6-19.