PRINCETON, N.J. – All 28 teams in the ECHL will take to the ice on Saturday, including the top two teams in the American Conference going head-to-head when South Division leader Pensacola visits East Division leader Charlotte.
Pensacola leads the ECHL with 39 wins and 83 points and enters the weekend needing only five points to become the first team to clinch a Kelly Cup Playoff berth while Charlotte holds a five-point lead over Columbia for the second seed in the conference. The two faced off earlier this season in Pensacola where the Ice Pilots won both games.
Alaska and Long Beach return to the ice for the fourth time in less than 10 days, having played three games in three days at Anchorage March 4-6, when the Aces visit the Ice Dogs on Saturday. After the first two games went to shootouts with each team winning once, the Aces overcame a 3-0 deficit to win 6-3 on Sunday and were atop the West Division at 36-15-7 and 79 points, two points ahead of Friday’s opponent Bakersfield and three points ahead of Long Beach.
Fresno hosts Bakersfield on Saturday as the Falcons look to increase their point lead over fast-charging Idaho and Bakersfield continues its battle for first place with Alaska and Long Beach. Going 20-5-4 since January 1 and 7-1-2 in the last 10 games, Fresno is 3-0-0 at home and 4-3-0 overall against Bakersfield, which is 5-0-1 in its last six games and 3-1-3 overall against the Falcons.
Trenton will look to avenge a 7-1 loss at Dayton on Wednesday when it hosts the Bombers on Saturday. Trenton, which was 0-2-2 in its last four games entering the weekend, is 3-0-1 at home and 6-1-1 overall against Dayton.
It will be the last home game of the season for Victoria when the Salmon Kings host Idaho in an afternoon game. Victoria won 3-2 on Thursday, a game that saw Idaho score with 12 seconds remaining to force overtime. The win ended Idaho’s six-game winning streak against the Salmon Kings and was Victoria’s first home win against the Steelheads, who are 3-0-1 at Victoria and 6-1-1 overall. Idaho is 10-1-2 in its last 13 games and began the weekend in fifth place with a 31-21-5 record and 67 points, four points behind Fresno for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division.
North Division leader Wheeling concludes its three-game road trip on Saturday when it visits Johnstown. The Nailers, who are 1-1-0 at Johnstown and 4-1-0 against the Chiefs, are looking for their fifth straight win against the Chiefs.
Toledo and Peoria will both continue their efforts to overtake Trenton for the fourth and final playoff berth when the two conclude their two-game series at Toledo. Peoria, which has not missed the postseason in each of its first eight seasons, headed into Friday with a 2-0-1 record at Toledo and a 4-3-1 overall mark against the Storm.
South Carolina, which has advanced to the playoffs in each of its 11 seasons, will be looking to improve its postseason position in the American Conference when it hosts Louisiana. The Stingrays, who beat Louisiana 3-1 in the only meeting on January 22, had won three games in a row to improve to 19-6-2 at home before Friday’s game against Augusta.
Reading enters the weekend in second place in the North Division at 33-17-5 with 71 points, one point behind leader Wheeling at 34-19-4 and one point ahead of Atlantic City at 31-18-8. After hosting Dayton, which beat Reading 4-3 on March 4, the Royals will remain at home on Saturday to host Atlantic City. Atlantic City is 2-1-0 at Reading and 4-2-0 overall against the Royals.
Pee Dee, which hosted league leader Pensacola on Friday, continues to its fight to get back into the playoff hunt on Saturday when it hosts Gwinnett. The Pride, which has won its last three home games to improve to 19-8-2 at home, began the weekend in ninth place in the American Conference with 57 points, trailing Mississippi and Gwinnett by nine points. Pee Dee is 0-2-0 against the Gladiators with both losses coming at Gwinnett.
San Diego will look for its third straight win against Las Vegas on Saturday. The Gulls, who were seven points out of fourth heading into the weekend, are 2-1-0 at Las Vegas and 4-1-0 overall against the Wranglers.
Mississippi and Florida travel to Estero on Saturday for the second game in their home-and-home series. Currently the third seed in the American Conference at 33-17-8 and 74 points, Florida is 2-0-0 at home and 2-1-0 overall against the Sea Wolves, who are 31-21-4 and tied for seventh place in the conference with 66 points.
Columbia, which is 7-0-3 in its last 10 home games, concludes its two-game series against Texas, which beat the Inferno 3-2 at Texas on November in the only meeting. The Inferno is 30-16-9 with 69 points, placing it second in the East Division and fourth in the conference.
Going 6-1-1 in its last eight games to improve to 31-21-5 and sixth place in the conference, Greenville visits Augusta on Saturday. The Grrrowl is 1-1-1 on its current seven-game road trip, including a 3-2 shootout loss at Augusta in the first game of the trip, and 15-11-4 overall on the road. Winning its last six home games to improve to 12-10-4 at home, Augusta is in 10th place in the conference at 22-27-7 with 51 points.