Eight teams have advanced in the 2005 Kelly Cup Playoffs after an opening round that saw 15 of 33 games decided by one goal, including nine overtime games.
The second round opens on Friday with Trenton visiting Reading, Alaska playing at Long Beach and Greenville traveling to Florida. Saturday has Trenton at Reading and Alaska at Long Beach while Sunday has Charlotte visiting Gwinnett.
The North Division Finals and the West Division Finals in the National Conference and the American Conference Semifinals are each best-of-five series. The winners of the North Division Finals and the West Division Finals will meet in the National Conference Finals while the winners of the American Conference Semifinals meet in the American Conference Finals. The conference finals will both be best-of-seven series played May 3-16.
In the American Conference Quarterfinals, Florida becomes the top seed following the upset of regular season division winners Pensacola and Columbia. Gwinnett is the No. 2 Seed while Charlotte, which beat Columbia in five games, is the No. 3 Seed and Greenville, which upset Pensacola in four games, is the No. 4 Seed. In the first round, Gwinnett was the No. 5 Seed while Charlotte was the No. 7 Seed and Greenville was the No. 8 Seed.
In the West Division Finals, Alaska is the higher seed but because of a scheduling conflict at Sullivan Arena, the series opens at Long Beach. In the North Division Finals, Reading is the higher seed and will host the first two games.
Greenville has beat Florida in the two previous Kelly Cup Playoff meetings, including the division semifinals in 2002 when the Grrrowl went on to win the Kelly Cup Championship. The last meeting was 2003 when Greenville won 3-2 at Florida in the wild card game. Greenville beat Florida 2-1 on April 2 to improve to 2-1-0 at home and 4-1-0 overall against the Everblades in 2004-05.
Florida advances to the second round for the second straight season and the fourth time in the team’s seven playoff appearances. The Everblades advanced past the second round for the first time in team history in 2004, reaching the Kelly Cup Finals where they lost in five games to Idaho. Florida finished second in the South Division and third in the American Conference at 42-20-10 with 94 points. The Everblades have not missed the postseason in each of their first seven seasons.
Greenville has advanced in each of its four playoff appearances, including winning the Kelly Cup in 2003 and reaching the conference finals in 2000. Greenville finished fourth in the East Division and eighth in the American Conference at 39-28-5 and 83 points, a 50-point improvement from last season when the Grrrowl missed the postseason. The 50-point improvement ties the ECHL record set by Knoxville, which improved 50 points from 1992-93 to 1993-94. It is the fourth trip to the postseason for Greenville, which won the Kelly Cup in 2002.
Gwinnett has reached the postseason in each of its first two seasons since relocating from Mobile (Alabama) and in 2004 lost in the conference finals to eventual champion Idaho.
Back in the postseason for the first time since 2002, Charlotte advances to the second round for the first time since 1998 and only the third time in the team’s 12-year history, including 1996 when the Checkers won the Riley Cup, the trophy awarded to the ECHL postseason winner from 1989 until the introduction of the Kelly Cup in 1997.
Gwinnett finished third in the South Division and fourth in the American Conference while the Checkers finished third in the East Division and seventh in the American Conference at 39-26-7 and 85 points. Gwinnett won the last four games with Charlotte and is 5-2-1 overall and 4-0-1 at home against the Checkers in 2004-05.
Alaska has reached the Kelly Cup Playoffs in each of its first two seasons since joining the ECHL as an expansion team in 2003-04 while Long Beach, which also joined as an expansion team in 2003-04, is making its first postseason appearance. Alaska finished atop the National Conference at 45-19-8 and 98 points. One of seven expansion teams that joined the ECHL in 2003-04, the Aces set team records for wins (45), points (98), road wins (23), consecutive wins (6) and consecutive road wins (5) while tying the team record for home wins (22) and consecutive home wins (4). In the opening round of the postseason a year ago, the Aces (82 points) swept regular-season point champion San Diego (108 points), the seventh-largest postseason upset (26 points) in ECHL history, before losing in the division finals to eventual champion Idaho.
Long Beach was second in the National Conference at 43-20-9 and 95 points. The Ice Dogs improved 44 points from their first season, the fifth-largest single-season point improvement in league history. Long Beach won the last meeting with Alaska 2-1 at home to improve to 2-1-1 at home and 3-2-2 overall against the Aces in 2004-05. The Aces won the last meeting in Alaska, 6-3 on March 6, to improve to 2-0-1 at home and 4-2-1 overall against the Ice Dogs.
Reading is making its second postseason appearance in a row, having qualified for the postseason for the first time since moving to Pennsylvania in 2001-02. The Royals became the first wild card team in league history to reach the conference finals in 2004, losing in five games to Florida. Reading is the top seed in the North at 43-22-7 and 93 points, setting team records for wins (43), points (93), consecutive wins (9) and road wins (18) while tying the record for home wins (25) and consecutive home wins (6).
Trenton advances in the playoffs for the first time since 2002 when it lost in the division finals. The Titans, who missed the postseason for the first time in 2004, lost in the Kelly Cup Finals in 2001 and in the conference finals in their first season in 2000. Trenton, which ended a six-game postseason losing streak with its 4-2 win in Game 1 against Atlantic City, finished second in the North Division at 42-21-9 and 93 points.
Trenton won the last three regular season meetings, including an overtime win and a shootout win, to improve to 7-3-0 against Reading in 2004-05. The Titans won the last three games at home and were 4-1-0 at Sovereign Bank Arena. Reading was 2-2-1 at home and 3-5-2 overall against the Titans in the regular season.