PRINCETON, N.J. – The first of three games in three days between defending Kelly Cup Champion Idaho and Fresno highlights the ECHL schedule on Thursday. The other games have Columbia looking to improve its seed in the American Conference when it travels to Augusta and Reading looking to increase its lead in the North Division.
The Falcons travel to Boise in fifth place in the West Division, one point behind Idaho which has won its last four games and has not lost in regulation in March. The Steelheads return home following an eight-game road trip that saw them go 6-0-2 to earn 14 of a possible 16 points. Idaho, which is 15-1-3 in its last 19 games, is 36-21-6 with 78 points while Fresno, which is 5-4-1 in its last 10 games, is 35-21-7 with 77 points. The teams have met four times this season and all four meetings were in Fresno. The two have not played since December 17 when the Falcons won 3-2 to even the season series at two wins each.
Columbia, which has finished first in its division each of the last two years, is in third place in the East Division and fifth in the American Conference at 33-18-10 and 76 points. The Inferno is 1-1-0 at Augusta and 2-2-1 overall against the Lynx, who are looking to end a three-game home losing streak.
Reading beat Toledo 6-4 on Tuesday to move into first place in the North Division at 37-18-7 and 81 points. The Royals are looking to return to the postseason for the second straight year after advancing to the conference finals in 2004 when they qualified for the playoffs for the first time since moving to Reading in 2001-02. Reading has won the last two meetings with Dayton and is 3-1-0 at home and 6-1-0 overall against the Bombers. Atlantic City is one point behind Reading at 36-20-8 and 80 points followed by Trenton at 34-20-9 and 77 points and Wheeling which holds the final playoff berth in the North at 36-23-4 and 76 points. Toledo is one point out of the postseason at 35-23-5 and 75 points while Peoria, which hosts Johnstown on Wednesday, is two points back at 33-22-7 and 73 points.
Pensacola and Florida are the only two teams that have clinched a berth in the 2005 Kelly Cup Playoffs, scheduled to begin on April 12 with the Division Semifinals in the National Conference and the Conference Quarterfinals in the American Conference. Charlotte could become the third team to secure a spot if Pee Dee loses its game at Louisiana on Wednesday.