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Seven Teams Battle for Five Playoff Spots In South

Tuesday, Mar. 13th, 2007

Two wins at Utah and a win at Las Vegas helped Texas improve to 35-19-9 and move into first place in the South Division with 79 points. Florida is in second place with 78 points (37-18-4) and Gwinnett is in third place with 77 points (35-18-7). Augusta, South Carolina and Charlotte are in a battle for the final two playoff spots with only four points separating them.

In the South Division, berths in the Kelly Cup Playoffs are awarded to the first-place team as well as to the next four-best teams based on regular-season point totals. The fourth seed and the fifth seed will play a best-of-three game series in the Division Quarterfinals with the winner advancing to meet the division leader in the Division Semifinals, a best-of-five series that also had the second seed playing the third seed. The winners will advance to the best-of-seven Division Finals with the winner advancing to the American Conference Finals to meet the winner of the North Division.

South Carolina won three in a row to move back into the fifth and final playoff spot with 67 points (30-23-7). The Stingrays won the Kelly Cup in 1997 and 2001 and they have reached the playoffs in every one of their 13 seasons, which is the league record for most playoff appearances and consecutive playoff appearances. South Carolina plays at Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday and at Pensacola on Saturday while hosting Florida on Friday and Pensacola on Sunday.

Looking for its first back-to-back Kelly Cup Playoff appearances since 2000 and 2001, Augusta concludes a series of five road games with a visit to Texas on Friday and Saturday.

Trying to reach the postseason for the third consecutive year for the first time since advancing each of its first five seasons from 1994-98, Charlotte hosts Gwinnett on Tuesday and Florida on Saturday while traveling to Columbia on Friday and Sunday.

The Wildcatters are looking for their first trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs since relocating to Beaumont in 2003-04. Unable to play last season because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Texas has 29 more points than its best season in 2003-04 and has surpassed its highs with 35 wins, 19 road wins and 16 home wins. The Wildcatters return home, following a seven-game National Conference road trip, to host Augusta on Friday and Saturday.

Florida, which is 8-3-2 in its last 13 games, has advanced to the postseason every season since joining the league in 1998-99, including reaching the Kelly Cup Finals in 2004 and 2005. The Everblades host South Carolina on Tuesday and Wednesday before playing at South Carolina on Friday, at Charlotte on Saturday and at Gwinnett on Sunday.

The Gladiators have reached the postseason all three years since relocating to Georgia in 2003-04 and won the American Conference and reached the Kelly Cup Finals a year ago. Gwinnett, which is 6-1-1 in its last eight games, plays at Charlotte on Tuesday and at Pensacola on Friday before hosting Columbia on Saturday and Florida on Sunday.

Gwinnett leads the league with 249 goals and 4.15 goals per game after leading the ECHL a year ago with 304 goals and 4.29 goals per game. The Gladiators also lead the league with 105 power-play goals and a power-play percentage of 24.8 percent. Gwinnett is on pace to score 126 power-play goals which would break the ECHL record of 115 power-play goals set by Nashville in 1995-96. The Gladiators scored 114 power-play goals in 2005-06 when they led the league with a power-play percentage of 24.1 percent, which was the highest percentage since 1999-2000 when Greenville had 24.3 percent.

Condors Are Third Team To Reach Kelly Cup Playoffs

Bakersfield became the third team in the National Conference to secure a spot in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, joining defending champion Alaska and Las Vegas. The remaining seven teams in the conference all are still in the hunt for the final five berths.

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.

The Condors (36-13-10) and Wranglers (34-12-14) are tied for the Pacific Division lead with 82 points which is 10 points behind Alaska (44-13-4) which leads the ECHL with 92 points. Bakersfield has reached the postseason each of the last three years while Alaska and Las Vegas have reached the postseason four times and three times, respectively.

The defending Brabham Cup and Kelly Cup champion Aces, who have been the first to clinch a berth each of the last two years, are looking to become the first team in ECHL history to repeat as regular season champion. Alaska became only the second team to win both the regular season and postseason championships in the same season in 2006 joining the South Carolina Stingrays who captured the Brabham Cup and the Kelly Cup in 1997.

Idaho is in second place in the West Division and fourth in the conference with 71 points (33-21-5) and needs only three points to reach the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the fourth straight year. In their first season in 2003-04, the Steelheads became only the second expansion team in league history and the first since 1990 to win the Kelly Cup. Idaho plays at Stockton on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and at Fresno on Saturday.

Fresno, which won two out of three games at Idaho over the weekend, is in third place in the Pacific Division and fifth in the conference with 69 points (32-22-5). The Falcons need only five points to advance to the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the second straight season after reaching the National Conference Finals a year ago before losing in double overtime in Game 7 at Alaska. Fresno plays at Las Vegas on Tuesday before hosting Alaska on Friday and Sunday and Idaho on Saturday.

Stockton is in fourth place in the Pacific Division and sixth in the conference with 64 points (27-21-10) while Victoria is in third in the West Division and seventh in the conference with 56 points (26-31-4). The Thunder in their second season and the Salmon Kings in their third season are both looking for their first trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Stockton hosts Idaho on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and travels to Bakersfield on Saturday while Victoria hosts Utah on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Phoenix holds onto the eighth and final postseason spot with 55 points (25-30-5) followed by Utah with 49 points (21-32-7) and Long Beach with 47 points (22-34-3). The RoadRunners, who did not reach the Kelly Cup Playoffs in their inaugural season in 2005-06, host Bakersfield on Tuesday and Thursday and Las Vegas on Saturday while traveling to Las Vegas on Friday. The Grizzlies play at Victoria on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday while the Ice Dogs host Bakersfield on Friday, Alaska on Saturday and Las Vegas on Sunday.

Cyclones, Bombers Lead Tight North Division

Cincinnati beat second-place Dayton in a shootout and won on the road at Johnstown to improve to 32-22-4 and remain in first place in the North Division with 68 points. All seven teams are all still in the race for the five playoff berths in the division and only eight points separates the top five teams.

In the North Division, berths in the Kelly Cup Playoffs will be awarded to the first-place team as well as to the next four-best teams, based on regular-season point totals. The fourth seed and the fifth seed will play a best-of-three series in the Division Quarterfinals with the winner advancing to meet the division winner in the Division Semifinals, a best-of-five series that also had the second seed playing the third seed. The winners will advance to the best-of-seven Division Finals with the winner advancing to the American Conference Finals to meet the winner of the South Division.

The Cyclones host Reading on Wednesday and Trenton on Friday and Saturday before traveling to Troy, Ohio on Sunday for a game at Hobart Arena against second-place Dayton. Cincinnati, which had a voluntary suspension for each of the past two seasons, is looking to reach the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the third time in four seasons, including 2003 when the Cyclones lost in Game 7 of the conference finals to eventual champion Atlantic City.

Dayton, which has registered a point in its last eight games (6-0-2), has 66 points (30-20-6) and is three points ahead of Toledo (31-26-1) and Trenton (29-25-5). The Bombers have 20 more points than last season and their most wins and points since 2001-02 when they finished first in their division with 92 points (40-20-12) and advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals. Looking to reach the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2002, Dayton hosts Reading on Tuesday and Friday and Cincinnati on Sunday at Hobart Arena in Troy, Ohio. Toledo plays at Wheeling on Wednesday and Saturday and hosts the Nailers on Friday. Trenton travels to Cincinnati on Friday and Saturday and Johnstown on Sunday.

Looking to reach the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the fourth season in a row, Reading holds the final postseason spot with 60 points (27-27-6), which is two points ahead of Johnstown (26-27-6) and eight points in front of Wheeling (23-29-6). The Royals play at Dayton on Tuesday and Friday and at Cincinnati on Wednesday before hosting Johnstown on Saturday and Wheeling on Sunday. Johnstown travels to Reading on Saturday and hosts Trenton on Sunday. Wheeling hosts Toledo on Wednesday and Saturday and travels to Toledo on Friday and to Reading on Sunday.

League Surpasses 3 Million Fans For 14th Season In A Row

The fourth-largest crowd of the season in Dayton and strong weekends by attendance leaders Alaska, Charlotte, Florida and Gwinnett helped the ECHL surpass 3 million fans for the 14th consecutive season. With four weeks and 158 games remaining in the regular season, the league has drawn 3,047,722 for 742 games, which is an average of 4,107 per game.

Stockton continues to lead the league with 6,783 per game, which is the largest average since 2000-01 and up 6.5 percent from a year ago when they led the league in their inaugural season. Florida had more than 13,400 for its two games to raise its average to 6,115 per game, which is second in the league followed by Charlotte at 5,916 per game.

Johnstown raised its average again to 2,545 per game, which is up 4.9 percent from a year ago while Gwinnett, which had its sixth-largest crowd of the year with 7,177 on Mar. 10, is fifth in the league with 5,620 per game, which is up 1.7 percent.

Alaska has drawn almost 32,000 the last two weekends raising its average to 5,079, which is seventh in the league and an increase of 3.86 percent from last season while Bakersfield is fourth with 5,710 per game, which is up 1.9 percent from a year ago. Since joining as expansion teams in 2003-04, the Condors and Aces have raised their average attendance by 24.2 percent and 17.0 percent, respectively.

Dayton had its fourth-largest crowd of the season with 7,411 on Mar. 10 raising its average to 3,862 per game, which is up a league-leading 10.53 percent from last season. Fresno has the second-highest increase with 8.92 percent to 4,904 while Utah has increased its average by 8.78 percent to 3,844 per game, which is the third-highest growth as 12 of the 23 returning teams have increased average attendance.

The ECHL is trying to raise attendance for the fourth year in a row for the first time ever after having its largest average since 1999-2000 in 2005-06 with 4,327 per game as 13 of 22 returning teams raised their attendance.

Gwinnett’s Schell Hits 100 Points; Cyclones’ Wirll Reaches 40 Goals

Brad Schell of Gwinnett became the first ECHL player since 2002-03 to score 100 points when he registered an assist in the second period of a 7-2 loss at Florida on Mar. 6.

Schell had five more assists and two goals in the Gladiators next four games and he leads the league with 81 assists and 106 points in 57 games. The 106 points is the most since Buddy Smith of Arkansas had 104 points (30g-74a) in 2002-03. Schell, who averages 1.4 assists per game, needs 12 assists in Gwinnett’s last 12 games to tie the ECHL record of 93 assists set by Dan Gauthier of Knoxville in 1990-91. Schell has also played four games in the American Hockey League where he has three points (1g-2a) for Chicago.

Scott Mifsud of Gwinnett had three assists and six points last week and remains second in the league with 62 assists and 87 points in 58 games. Mifsud and Schell can become only the second teammates in ECHL history to finish first and second in assists, joining Louisiana’s Ron Handy and John De Pourcq, who led the league in 1996-97 with 67 assists and 63 assists.

Gwinnett’s Colton Fretter continues to lead ECHL rookies with 35 goals and 64 points despite missing the last 11 games after being injured on Feb. 14.

Mike Wirll of Cincinnati scored his league-leading 40th goal in a 4-1 win at Johnstown on Mar. 10. Wirll, who has a three-game goal streak (4g), has 12 games remaining and can become the first ECHL player to score 50 goals since 2000-01 when Andrew Williamson of Toledo led the league with 52 goals in 66 games. The most goals scored in the last five seasons is 49 goals by Chris Minard of Alaska in 2004-05.

The assist and scoring leaders each of the last two years have been from the Alaska Aces. Scott Gomez had 73 assists and 86 points during the NHL lockout in 2004-05 and Alex Leavitt had 65 assists and 91 points a year ago. Leavitt’s teammate Mike Scott was second in the league with 87 points, marking the first time since 1996-97 and only the fourth time in ECHL history that teammates have finished first and second in scoring.

South Carolina’s Ed Courtenay (54g-56a) and Mike Ross (50g-60a) tied for the lead with 110 points in 1996-97. Erie’s Scott Burfoot led the league with 97 points (29g-68a) and teammate Stephane Charbonneau was second with 91 points (50g-41a) in 1994-95. Stan Drulia of Knoxville led the league with 140 points (63g-77a) and teammate Dan Gauthier was second with 134 points (41g-93a) in 1990-91.



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