National Race Is Tight As Utah, Victoria Make Kelly Cup Push

Posting back-to-back wins against Phoenix on Feb. 2 and 3, Utah improved to 17-24-4 with 38 points to move to within one point of Victoria (19-27-1) for the National Conference’s final berth in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Alaska leads the ECHL with 62 points and a 30-12-2 record while Bakersfield (26-12-5) and Las Vegas (23-9-11) are tied for the Pacific Division lead with 57 points. Fresno is fourth in the conference with 52 points (24-15-4) followed by Idaho with 49 points (23-17-3), Stockton with 48 points (20-13-8) and Phoenix with 47 points (22-19-3).

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, which will be best-of-seven game series, 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.

Utah has come from behind in six of its last seven wins and is 8-2-1 in its last 11 games with two shootout wins and an overtime win. The Grizzlies, who are 2-0-1 on their current 10-game home stand and 9-6-2 overall at home, will host Long Beach on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. In its first season in 2005-06, Utah lost in the division semifinals to Kelly Cup champion Alaska.

The Salmon Kings, who have won their last four road games, will play at Idaho on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Victoria, which had its team record five-game winning streak end on Feb. 3 against Idaho, has missed the postseason in each of its first two seasons.

Despite missing the first five games of the season, Utah’s Ryan Kinasewich is tied for fourth in the ECHL with 27 goals while he is sixth with 11 power-play goals and seventh with 53 points in 40 games. He has a five-game scoring streak (4g-6a) and 19 points (9g-10a) in the last 11 games. Rob McVicar has started the last five games (3-1-1) and he is 7-1-1 with a shutout, two shootout wins and an overtime win in his last nine starts to improve to 15-15-4 overall.

Wes Goldie leads the Victoria offense and he has eight points (5g-3a) in the last six games and is tied for fourth in the ECHL with 27 goals while he is tied for 11th in scoring with 48 points in 47 games. Francois-Pierre (F.P.) Guenette has six points (2g-4a) in the last four games while Marc-Andre Bernier has eight points (5g-3a) in the last five games and 14 points (10g-4a) in the last 11 games.

Bakersfield has won its last two games to improve to 6-1-2 in its last nine games and 10-2-2 in its last 14 games. The Condors will host Toledo on Wednesday and Stockton on Friday. Josh Liebenow has scored the game-winning goal in each of Bakersfield’s last two wins and has moved into the ECHL lead with six game-winning goals.

Phoenix has already surpassed its point total and its win total from its expansion season in 2005-06 when the RoadRunners were 20-47-5.