PRINCETON, N.J. – With less than 100 games remaining in the regular season, there are eight remaining berths in the 2004 Kelly Cup Playoffs, scheduled to open April 5 with the Wild Card Game in the Northern Division.
There are nine teams that have already qualified for the Kelly Cup Playoffs including defending Kelly Cup Champion Atlantic City in the Northern Division and 2003 Kelly Cup Finalist Columbia in the Southern Division.
The four postseason berths in the Pacific Division have been determined with San Diego, Las Vegas, Idaho and Alaska. Las Vegas is in second place in the division, eight points behind leader San Diego and six points ahead of Idaho, which leads fourth-place Alaska by seven points.
Final Northern Division Playoff Berth Going Down To The Wire With Trenton, Reading
Wheeling leads the Northern Division with 100 points, 11 points ahead of second-place Peoria and 12 points ahead of third-place Atlantic City, which has three games in hand on both Wheeling and Peoria. The Nailers, Rivermen and Boardwalk Bullies have secured three of the five playoff spots in the Northern Division. The fourth place and the fifth place finishers in the Northern Division will play a Wild Card Game on April 5 with the winner advancing to meet the first-place finisher in the best-of-five Northern Division Semifinals.
Johnstown needs only one point to secure the fourth playoff berth in the Northern Division, returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2001-02 and for the 10th time in its 16-year history in the ECHL. The Chiefs travel to Atlantic City on Wednesday and Wheeling on Friday before returning to historic Cambria County War Memorial to host Trenton on Saturday and Cincinnati on Sunday.
After going 4-0-0 with wins over Northern Division opponents Peoria, Reading and Atlantic City, Trenton currently holds the fifth and final playoff spot in the Northern Division. Trenton and Reading are tied for fifth place with 77 points, but the Titans are 35-24-7 while Reading is 34-24-9.
Trenton has not missed the Kelly Cup Playoffs in each of its first four seasons in the ECHL, advancing to the Kelly Cup Finals in 2001 and the Northern Conference Finals in 2000. Trenton hosts Greensboro on March 25 and 26 before traveling to Johnstown on March 27. The Titans are 6-1-0 in their last seven games and have won seven consecutive home games to improve to 22-6-3 at home. Trenton will host Greensboro on Thursday and Friday before traveling to Johnstown on Saturday.
Reading is looking to qualify for the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the first time in its three-year history. The Royals host Wheeling on March 23 and Atlantic City on March 28 while traveling to Cincinnati on March 26 and Wheeling on March 27. Reading is 3-9-1 in its last 13 games and 2-5-1 in its last eight home games after going 21-1-3 in its first 25 home games. The Royals, who are 9-27-4 all time in the month of March, will travel to Cincinnati on Friday and Wheeling on Saturday before hosting Atlantic City on Sunday.
South Carolina, Greensboro, Florida, Roanoke, Charlotte Still Alive In Southern Division
Columbia, which lost in the 2003 Kelly Cup Finals to Atlantic City, has secured the first of four available playoff berths in the Southern Division, advancing to the postseason for the third time in its three-year history.
Opening a three-game road trip on Wednesday at Charlotte, Florida is in fourth place in the Southern Division, four points ahead of fifth-place Roanoke and six points ahead of sixth-place Charlotte. The Everblades will play at Roanoke on Friday and at Greensboro on Saturday before returning home for their final two games, hosting Augusta on April 2 and 3.
South Carolina and Greensboro are tied for second place in the Southern Division with 77 points, one point ahead of fourth-place Florida and nine points behind leader Columbia, which is looking to win its second straight division title. South Carolina is 37-25-3 with two games in hand on Charlotte, Columbia and Florida, and one game in hand on Greensboro and Roanoke. The Stingrays have qualified for the postseason in each of their 10 seasons in the ECHL and a berth in the 2004 Kelly Cup Playoffs will tie them with three other teams for the most playoff appearances in league history. South Carolina will travel to Columbia on Thursday and Columbus on Saturday while hosting Columbia on Friday. After traveling to Trenton on Thursday and Friday, Greensboro will return home to host Florida on Sunday. In their fifth season, the Generals are looking to make their second straight appearance in the postseason after qualifying for the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the first time in 2003.
Trying to avoid missing the postseason for the first time in its 11 seasons, Roanoke is in fifth place in the Southern Division, four points behind Florida for the final playoff berth. The Express, who will play five of their last six games at home, will host Greenville on Wednesday, Florida on Friday and Augusta on Sunday while traveling to Greenville on Sunday. In sixth place in the Southern Division with 70 points, six points behind Florida for the last playoff spot, Charlotte still has hopes of returning to the postseason for the first time since 2001-02 and the eighth time in team history. The Checkers will play their final three regular season home games hosting Florida on Wednesday, Florence on Friday and Columbia on Saturday.
Four Teams Battling For Final Three Southern Division Playoff Slots
Looking to make its third straight Kelly Cup Playoff appearance, Mississippi is in second place in the Southern Division, seven points behind leader Louisiana and six points ahead of Pensacola and Gwinnett. The Sea Wolves will host Louisiana on Friday and Columbus on Sunday.
Gwinnett is 37-21-7 and 81 points, tying it for third place in the Southern Division with Pensacola. Looking to make their first playoff appearance in their first season in Georgia, the Gladiators will open a five-game road trip playing at Texas on Friday and Louisiana on Saturday and Sunday.
Also looking to make its third consecutive postseason appearance, Pensacola has 81 points and is tied with Gwinnett for third place in the Southern Division. The Ice Pilots will host Columbus on Friday and Texas on Saturday before traveling to Texas on Sunday.Looking to advance to the postseason for the first time in its three ECHL seasons, Columbus is in fifth place with 77 points, four points behind Gwinnett and Pensacola. The Cottonmouths will play at Pensacola on Friday and at Mississippi on Sunday while hosting South Carolina on Saturday.
The best-of-five division semifinals will be played April 6-15 while the best-of-five division finals are scheduled to be played April 16-25. The best-of-five conference finals will be played April 27-May 8 with the best-of-seven Kelly Cup Finals scheduled for May 10-23.