A 2-1 overtime loss at Las Vegas on Friday allowed San Diego to become the first team to clinch a berth in the 2004 Kelly Cup Playoffs. Las Vegas became the second team to secure a postseason spot when it beat Fresno 1-0 on Sunday, going 5-0-0 for the week.
San Diego is 36-12-8 with 80 points, two points ahead of Louisiana (38-15-2) for the Western Conference lead and two points ahead of Las Vegas (36-17-6) for the Pacific Division lead. Idaho is in third place in the Pacific Division with 73 points (33-16-7) while Alaska is in fourth place with 64 points (30-22-4), 17 points ahead of Bakersfield (20-31-7) for the fourth and final Kelly Cup Playoff berth in the Pacific Division.
Louisiana leads the Central Division with 78 points, six points ahead of Mississippi (33-18-6) and seven points ahead of Gwinnett (33-19-5). Pensacola is in fourth place with 68 points (31-18-6), two points ahead of Columbus (31-22-4) for the final Kelly Cup Playoff berth in the Central Division. Louisiana has qualified for the postseason in each of its eight seasons in the ECHL while Mississippi has lost in the Southern Conference Finals each of the past two seasons and has advanced to the postseason five times since joining the league in 1996-97. Pensacola is looking for its third consecutive appearance in the Kelly Cup Playoffs and the sixth postseason appearance since moving to Pensacola in 1996-97. Columbus has missed the postseason each of its two seasons since joining the league in 2001-02.
Wheeling has won its last seven games and leads the league with 42 wins and 86 points. The longest winning streak in the ECHL this season is nine games by San Diego from January 17 to February 4. The ECHL record for most consecutive wins is 14 games set by the Knoxville Cherokees from December 28, 1993 to January 29, 1994 and tied by Louisiana from November 23 to December 22, 2001.
The Nailers are looking to win the team’s fourth Henry Brabham Cup, the trophy awarded annually to the regular-season point champion of the ECHL, and to qualify for the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1997-98. Wheeling won the Brabham Cup as the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds in 1989-90 and as the Wheeling Thunderbirds in 1992-93 and 1994-95. The 42 wins are the most for the team since 42 wins in 1995-96 and are four wins shy of the team record of 46 wins in 1994-95. The 86 points are the most since Wheeling had 83 points in 1997-98 and are 11 points shy of the team record of 97 points in 1994-95.
Atlantic City is in second place in the Eastern Conference with 81 points (38-13-5), seven points ahead of Peoria (33-16-8) in the Northern Division and nine points ahead of Johnstown (33-17-6) in the Northern Division. Since moving to Atlantic City in 2001-02, Atlantic City has won the Kelly Cup Championship in 2003 and advanced to the Northern Conference Finals in 2002. Johnstown is looking to return to the postseason for the 10th time in its 16-year history and for the first time since 2001-02. Reading has 70 points (31-17-8) and is eight points ahead of Trenton (28-21-6) for the fifth and final Kelly Cup Playoff spot in the Northern Division. Reading has not qualified for the postseason in each of its first three seasons while Trenton has not missed the playoffs since joining the ECHL in 1999-2000.
Columbia leads the Southern Division with 76 points (35-17-6), eight points ahead of Florida (29-21-10) and nine points ahead of Greensboro (33-23-1). South Carolina (31-21-3) and Charlotte (29-21-7) are tied for the fourth and final Kelly Cup Playoff spot with 65 points, three points ahead of Roanoke (28-26-6). Columbia has qualified for the Kelly Cup Playoffs each of its first two seasons and advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals in 2003. Florida has advanced to the postseason in each of its first five seasons in the ECHL while Greensboro is looking for its second consecutive appearance after missing the playoffs its first three seasons. South Carolina and Roanoke have each qualified for the playoffs in each of their 10 seasons and both are looking to tie Dayton (1992-2002) and Hampton Roads (1990-2000) for the most consecutive postseason appearances. South Carolina won the inaugural Kelly Cup in 1997 and won it again in 2001. Charlotte is looking to return to the postseason for the first time since 2001-02 and the eighth time in the team’s 11-year history.