PRINCETON, N.J. – Friday in the ECHL will see Peoria looking to take another step towards getting back into the playoff hunt when it visits Toledo while first place is on the line for the second weekend in a row as Alaska travels to Bakersfield and Pensacola heads to Pee Dee continuing its quest to become the first team to secure a Kelly Cup Playoff berth.
Winning six in a row and going 12-2-3 in its last 17 games, Peoria has climbed back into the Kelly Cup Playoff race in the North Division where seven points separate six teams battling for four postseason spots. The Rivermen, who have not missed the postseason in each of their first eight ECHL seasons, are 29-18-7 and in sixth place with 65 points. Toledo is in fifth place at 31-22-4 and 66 points while Trenton holds onto the fourth and final playoff berth at 29-19-9 and 67 points. Peoria is 2-0-1 at Toledo and 4-3-1 overall against the Storm.
Going 10-0-3 in its last 13 games and 9-0-1 in their last 10 road games, Alaska is 36-15-7 and sits atop the West Division with 79 points, two points ahead of Bakersfield, which is 5-0-1 in its last six games, at 34-15-9 and 77 points. The Aces are 0-1-0 at Bakersfield and 2-2-0 overall against the Condors, who are 1-0-0 at home and 2-1-1 overall against Alaska.
Winless in its last two home games and 1-3-1 in its last five games, Long Beach, which is in third place in the West at 35-17-6 and 76 points, will host San Diego, which is in sixth place at 29-22-6 and 64 points. The Ice Dogs are 1-1-0 at home and 1-2-1 overall against the Gulls, who have won the last three meetings to improve to 3-1-0 overall and 1-1-0 at Long Beach.
Entering the weekend in ninth place in the American Conference, Pee Dee is facing a must-win situation when it hosts Pensacola, which leads the ECHL with 83 points and 39 wins, on Friday. The Ice Pilots, who won the only meeting with the Pride 4-2 on January 30, begin the weekend needing any combination of five points in wins and or losses by Pee Dee to become the first team to secure a Kelly Cup Playoff berth. The Pride has won its last two home games to improve to 18-8-2 at home.
Holding onto the second seed in the American Conference by leading the East Division with 74 points, Charlotte (35-20-4) will host Greenville, which is in fourth place in the East and sixth place in the conference at 31-21-5 and 67 points. The Checkers, who have won four in a row and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, are 3-0-0 at home and 5-2-0 overall against Greenville. Charlotte is 5-0-0 in its last five home games and 21-7-1 overall at home. Greenville has doubled its win total (14) and its point total (33) from a year ago and its 34-point increase ties it for the eighth-largest single-season point increase, one point shy of the seventh-largest increase and four points shy of the sixth-largest increase.
Reading is in second place in the North Division at 33-17-5 and 71 points but leads the division in winning percentage with .645. The Royals will host Dayton, which beat Trenton 7-1 on Wednesday and which posted a 4-3 win at Reading on March 4. Reading is 1-1-0 at home and 4-1-0 overall against the Bombers.
In third place in the East Division and fifth place in the conference at 30-19-8 and 68 points, South Carolina will look to improve its seed when it hosts Augusta. The Stingrays, who have won their last three home games to improve to 19-6-2 at home, are 2-2-0 against the Lynx with all four games played at Augusta.
Fresno is 32-18-7 and holds the last playoff spot in the West Division with 71 points. Going 7-1-2 in their last 10 games and 20-5-4 since January 1, the Falcons are being chased by defending Kelly Cup Champion Idaho which was 10-1-1 in its last 12 games. Fresno has won the last five meetings with the Wranglers to improve to 5-1-0 and 2-0-0 at Las Vegas. The Steelheads were 31-21-4 and five points behind Fresno with two games in hand heading into Thursday’s contest at Victoria.
Wheeling beat Atlantic City 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday to move back into first place in the North Division at 34-19-4 and 72 points. The Nailers will visit Trenton on Friday. Wheeling is 2-0-0 at Trenton and 6-0-0 overall against the Titans, who are 4-0-1 in their last five home games and 17-8-4 overall at home.
In third place with 70 points and a 31-18-8 record, Atlantic City travels to Johnstown on Friday. The Bullies, who have won their last three road games and are 5-1-2 in their last eight games, are 3-0-0 at Johnstown and 4-1-1 overall against the Chiefs.
Florida, which lost in the 2004 Kelly Cup Finals, will look to tighten its hold on the third seed in the American Conference when it travels to Mississippi on Friday. The Everblades are 0-1-0 at Mississippi and 2-1-0 overall against the Sea Wolves, who are 31-21-4 with 66 points, tying them for seventh in the conference with Gwinnett, which will host Louisiana on Friday.
Columbia, which plays at Pee Dee on Thursday, will host Texas, which won the only meeting 3-2 at home on November 12, on Friday and Saturday. The Inferno is 30-15-9 with 69 points, placing it second in the East Division, five points behind Charlotte, and in fourth place in the conference. Columbia, which has finished first in its division each of the last two years, is 7-0-3 in its last 10 home games.