Heading into the final two weeks of the season, Victoria, Phoenix, Utah and Long Beach continue their battle for the final two Kelly Cup Playoff berths in the National Conference.
The Salmon Kings swept their two-game series against Long Beach last weekend and can clinch their first-ever postseason berth with a win at Utah on Wednesday. Victoria, which is in third place in the West Division and seventh in the conference with 64 points (30-32-4), continues its series at Utah, which reached the postseason in its first season in 2006-07, on Friday and Saturday.
Trying for its first Kelly Cup Playoffs berth in its second season, Phoenix has 55 points (25-35-5) and has a four-point advantage over Long Beach (24-38-3) and Utah (22-37-7) for the last spot in the National Conference. The RoadRunners and new coach Brad Church will look to end a season-high seven-game losing streak on Wednesday when they visit Bakersfield. Phoenix, which plays its last seven games on the road, will travel to Stockton on Friday and Fresno on Saturday.
Looking for its third consecutive Kelly Cup Playoffs appearance, Long Beach will play at Idaho on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Following back-to-back wins against Alaska on Friday and Saturday, Idaho is 37-24-5 and in second place in the West Division and fourth in the conference with 79 points. The Steelheads have advanced to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in every one of their first four seasons including 2003-04 when they became only the second expansion team in ECHL history and the first since 1990 to win the championship.
Alaska has already clinched the West Division and has a league-leading 98 points (46-15-6) as it looks to become the first team to repeat as regular season champion. The Aces are also trying to become only the second team in ECHL history to finish with 100 points in back-to-back seasons (Trenton in 2000-01 and 2001-02). Alaska became only the second team to win both the regular season and postseason championships in the same season in 2006 joining the South Carolina Stingrays who won both the Kelly Cup and the Brabham Cup in 1997. Alaska has a six-point lead over Las Vegas (39-12-14) which is two points in front of Bakersfield (40-15-10) in the Pacific Division.
The Wranglers and Condors continue their battle for the Pacific Division when they meet for the last time in the regular season on Tuesday at Las Vegas. Las Vegas will host Alaska on Friday and Saturday while Bakersfield hosts Phoenix on Wednesday and Stockton on Saturday and travels to Fresno on Friday.
Stockton, which will be making its first Kelly Cup Playoffs appearance in its second season, has 76 points (33-22-10) which ties it for fourth place in the Pacific Division and sixth in the conference with Fresno. The Thunder, who have won their last six games and are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games, will host the Falcons on Tuesday and Phoenix on Friday before traveling to Bakersfield on Saturday. Fresno will be making its second consecutive postseason appearance after reaching the National Conference Finals last year, losing in double overtime in Game 7 at Alaska. The Falcons will visit Stockton on Tuesday before hosting Bakersfield on Friday and Phoenix on Saturday.
In the National Conference, playoff berths will be awarded to the first-place team in each division as well as to the next six-best teams, based on regular-season point totals, and all playoff series will be best-of-seven games. In the Conference Quarterfinals, the division winners will be seeded first and second in order of points and the next six-best teams will be seeded third through eighth in order of points. In the Conference Semifinals and the Conference Finals, teams will be re-seeded according to the same criteria as the Conference Quarterfinals with division leaders seeded first and second while the remaining teams will be seeded in order of regular-season points.