11 Teams Battling For 7 Remaining Postseason Berths
PRINCETON, N.J. – Beating defending Kelly Cup Champion Atlantic City 5-2 on Wednesday, Johnstown secured the fourth playoff berth in the Northern Division. The Chiefs are returning to the postseason for the first time since 2001-02 and for the 10th time in their 16-year history in the ECHL.
Ten teams have already qualified for the 2004 Kelly Cup Playoffs, and entering the weekend there are 11 teams still mathematically alive for the seven remaining berths, including Trenton and Reading, who were tied for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Northern Division prior to Trenton’s game against Greensboro on Thursday.
The fourth-place finisher and fifth-place finisher in the Northern Division will meet in a Wild Card Game on April 5 with the winner advancing to meet the first-place finisher in the Northern Division Semifinals. 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.
The Titans host Greensboro again on Friday while Reading travels to Cincinnati for the Cyclones final home game of the season. Trenton has not missed the postseason in each of its first four seasons while Reading is looking to make the playoffs for the first time in its three-year history.
Wheeling can clinch both the Northern Division and the Eastern Conference regular season titles with a win on Friday against Johnstown. The Nailers, who have returned to the postseason for the first time since 1997-98, can also clinch the division and the conference if Atlantic City loses in regulation at Toledo or if both the Nailers and the Boardwalk Bullies lose in overtime or a shootout. Wheeling last won a regular season division title in 1994-95.
Columbia is the only team that has secured a spot in the Southern Division playoffs as Florida, South Carolina, Greensboro, Roanoke and Charlotte battle for the final three spots.
Charlotte must win its game against Florence on Friday or the Checkers will miss the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the second straight season.
Another key match-up in the Southern Division on Friday has Roanoke, which has won its last four games and is 7-1-2 in its last 10 games, hosting Florida. Trying to avoid missing the postseason for the first time in its 11 seasons, Roanoke is in fifth place in the division with 74 points. South Carolina and Greensboro were tied for third place with 77 points and Florida was in second place with 78 points.
South Carolina and Columbia will meet for the second time in as many days when the Stingrays host the Inferno on Friday. The two were scheduled to play on Thursday at Columbia. South Carolina is trying to qualify for the postseason for the 11th consecutive season, tying the ECHL record for playoff appearances.
Louisiana is the only team that has secured a berth in the Central Division playoffs and Mississippi, Gwinnett, Pensacola and Columbus are still in contention for the final three spots.
Pensacola will host Columbus in a key Central Division game on Friday. Pensacola and Gwinnett, which plays at Texas on Friday, are tied for third place in the Central Division with 81 points, four points ahead of Columbus. Needing four points to secure its third consecutive Kelly Cup Playoff appearance, Mississippi will play at Louisiana on Friday.
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 four points ahead of Idaho, which leads fourth-place Alaska by nine points.