Playoff picture starting to come into foucs


Playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference is heating up, and several key matchups this week will go a long way in determining the eight teams from the conference to advance to the Kelly Cup Playoffs.


The Cincinnati Cyclones sit atop the Eastern Conference with 87 points courtesy of a 9-0-1 streak in their last 10 games. Cincinnati is just one point away from clinching the first playoff berth in the conference. The Cyclones open a six-game road trip on Friday in Trenton, and on Saturday visit Reading, which is in second place in the conference, just three points off of Cincinnati’s pace.


Gwinnett leads the South Division, and is in third place of the conference, with 77 points, but has just a two point advantage over both Florida and South Carolina for the division lead. The Gladiators are home for a three-game series against Orlando on Thursday, Friday and Sunday while the Everblades and Stingrays tangle for a three-game set in Florida on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.


The race for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference has developed into a four-team race. Toledo and Greenville hold down the final two spots with 71 points each. Kalamazoo, which has won three straight games, is in ninth place with 67 points while Wheeling, which is undefeated in regulation in its last six outings (4-0-2) is six points off the pace with 65. The Walleye host the Road Warriors on Wednesday, before a three-game weekend series against the Nailers, in Wheeling on Friday and in Toledo on Saturday and Sunday. Kalamazoo hits the ice against Fort Wayne on Friday, visits Evansville on Saturday and then wraps up the weekend by hosting the Road Warriors on Sunday.


In the Western Conference, the Alaska Aces currently own the top spot with 98 points, enjoying an eight-point lead over Ontario for the conference lead and a 13-point advantage over Idaho for the Mountain Division lead. The Aces host the Steelheads for three games in Anchorage on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday while the Reign, who became the first ECHL team to clinch their division with a win on Saturday at Bakersfield, host Stockton on Friday and visit the Thunder on Saturday.


 Only two playoff spots remain unclaimed in the Western Conference. Utah, which is in seventh place with 59 points, has a magic number of one to claim its sixth consecutive playoff berth while San Francisco with 51 points, has a magic number of eight points.