As the New Year begins, the races for the Kelly Cup Playoffs remain tight as only nine points separate the top 16 teams in the league and 20 teams are within 12 points of Atlantic City which sits atop the ECHL with 42 points and a 19-6-4 record.
In the North Division of the National Conference, Atlantic City (19-6-4) is in first place with 42 points, four points ahead of Trenton (17-6-4). Wheeling is in third place with 37 points while Reading (16-9-1) and Johnstown (12-6-9) are tied for fourth place at 33 points.
Long Beach (18-8-3) is second in the league and atop the West Division of the National Conference with 39 points, one point ahead of Bakersfield (17-9-4). San Diego (15-8-4) is in third place with 34 points while Fresno (14-13-3) is in fourth place at 31 points, one point ahead of Alaska (14-12-2), Idaho (14-12-2) and Las Vegas (13-12-4).
In the American Conference, the top nine teams are separated by only six points. Florida (18-12-1) and Pensacola (17-8-3) are tied for first place in the South Division of the American Conference with 37 points while Pee Dee (17-10-2) and Charlotte (17-13-2) are tied for first place in the East Division with 36 points. Gwinnett (16-9-4) is tied with Pee Dee and Charlotte for third place in the conference with 36 points, one point ahead of Greenville (16-12-3) and three points ahead of Columbia (15-8-3) and Mississippi (15-12-3), tied for seventh place with 33 points. Louisiana (14-13-3) is in ninth place with 31 points.Because of geographical proximity in the American Conference, first-round playoff berths will be awarded to the top eight (8) teams – the first-place team in each division (based on regular-season point totals), as well as the next six-best teams (based on regular-season point totals). The two division winners will be seeded first and second (in order of points) and the next six-best teams (in order of points) will be seeded third through eighth. In the Conference Quarterfinals, the first-place team will meet the eighth-place team, the second-place team will meet the seventh-place team, the third-place team will meet the sixth-place team, and the fourth-place team will meet the fifth-place team. The Conference Quarterfinals are a best-of-five series and home ice is granted to those teams seeded first through fourth.
The playoff qualifiers in the National Conference will be the top four teams with the highest regular-season point total from the North Division and the top four teams with the highest regular-season point total from the West Division. The Division Semifinals will be best-of-five series with the first-place finisher meeting the fourth-place finisher and the second-place finisher meeting the third-place finisher.