Seven Teams Fight for Five ECHL Playoff Spots In North
Seven Teams Fight for Five ECHL Playoff Spots In North
Monday, Mar. 19th, 2007
Only seven points separate the top five teams and every team in the North Division is still alive in the battle for the five berths in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Cincinnati (34-23-5) is in first place with 73 points, five points ahead of Dayton (31-22-6) and Toledo (33-26-2) who are tied for second with 68 points each. Trenton (31-26-5) is fourth with 67 points, point in front of Reading (30-29-6), which currently holds the last postseason berth. Johnstown (26-29-6) is sixth with 58 points while Wheeling (25-31-6) is seventh with 56 points.
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 will host Wheeling on Tuesday before traveling to Trenton for games on Saturday and Sunday. Cincinnati, which had a voluntary suspension for each of the past two seasons, is trying 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 plays the first of its remaining four games against Toledo on Tuesday when it hosts the Storm and the second on Wednesday when it visits Toledo. The Bombers will host Johnstown on Friday and Saturday and play at Johnstown on Sunday. Dayton already has 22 more points than a year ago and the most wins and points since their last postseason appearance in 2001-02 when they won the division with 92 points (40-12-12) and advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals. The Chiefs are looking for their first back-to-back Kelly Cup Playoff appearances since 2001 and 2002 and their 12th postseason appearance in 19 seasons.
Toledo will host Reading on Friday and Saturday before traveling to Wheeling on Sunday. The Storm has reached the postseason each of the last two seasons and lost in the conference finals last season. Reading is looking for its fourth consecutive trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Before its weekend showdown with Cincinnati, Trenton will host Johnstown on Wednesday and play at Wheeling on Friday. The Titans have reached the playoffs in every season but one since joining the league in 1999-2000 and won the Kelly Cup in 2005 and reached the Kelly Cup Finals in 2001.
Wheeling, which has won its last two games, will play at Cincinnati on Tuesday before hosting Trenton on Friday and Toledo on Saturday. The Nailers have reached the Kelly Cup Playoffs twice in the last three years and a year ago advanced to the division finals.
10,000+ In Gwinnett, Season High In Victoria Help Attendance Growth
The largest crowd of the season in Victoria, a sellout in Charlotte, more than 10,000 in Gwinnett and over 8,000 in Bakersfield helped the ECHL average almost 4,350 per game last week. With three weeks and 114 games remaining in the regular season, the league has drawn 3,239,099, which is an average of 4,121 per game.
Stockton had more than 17,600 and continues to lead the ECHL with 6,697 per game, which is an increase of 5.3 percent from last season when the Thunder led the league in their inaugural season and is the largest average attendance since 2000-01. Florida continues its late season attendance climb with more than 13,000 for two midweek games to remain second with 6,143 per game.
Charlotte had its league-leading ninth sellout with 9,714 on Mar. 17 and is third with 5,964 per game, an increase of 2.1 percent from a year ago. Victoria had its largest crowd of the season on Mar. 17 and welcomed more than 14,000 for three games to raise its average to 4,092 per game.
Fresno had more than 18,000 for three games, including its third-largest crowd of the season on Mar. 17, to raise its average attendance to 5,011 per game, which is a league-leading 10.9 percent higher than last season.
Gwinnett had more than 10,000 for the third time this season with 10,349 on Mar. 17 as the Gladiators attendance increased to 5,753 which is fifth in the league and up 3.9 percent from a year ago.
Welcoming its third-largest crowd of the year and the second crowd of more than 8,000 in the last three games with 8,292 on Mar. 17, Bakersfield raised its average to 5,796 to rank fourth in the league. The average is up 3.3 percent from last season as the Condors look to raise their attendance for the fourth year in a row since joining as an expansion team in 2003-04.
Phoenix had its third-largest crowd of the season on Mar. 17 and raised its average to 3,637 per game while Johnstown is averaging 2,535 per game, which is up 4.5 percent from a year ago. Reading had almost 13,000 for two games to raise its attendance to 5,290, which is sixth in the league.
Eleven of the returning teams have seen an increase in average attendance including Utah has seen the second-highest average attendance increase with 8.8 percent and Dayton, which is third with 7.1 percent.
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.
Four Teams Still Fighting For Final Two National Conference Spots
Fresno, Idaho and Stockton all secured their spot in the Kelly Cup Playoffs on Sunday, joining defending champion Alaska, Bakersfield and Las Vegas.
Victoria, Phoenix, Utah and Long Beach are still battling for the final two berths in the National Conference.
It is the first-ever Kelly Cup Playoffs appearance for the Thunder, who are in their second season. The Steelheads have reached the Kelly Cup Playoffs every one of their four seasons and in 2003-04 became only the second expansion team in league history and the first since 1990 to win the ECHL championship. It is the second consecutive appearance in the postseason for the Falcons, who reached the National Conference Finals a year ago before losing in double overtime in Game 7 at Alaska.
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 last two spots are currently held by Victoria (28-32-4) with 60 points and Phoenix (25-34-5) with 55 points. Utah (22-34-7) is four points behind Phoenix and two points ahead of Long Beach (23-36-3). Victoria, which won two of its three games against Utah last weekend, remains home on Friday and Saturday to host Long Beach, who also plays at Fresno on Tuesday. Utah returns home to host Stockton on Thursday, Friday and Saturday while Phoenix will plays its only game of the week on Saturday when it hosts Fresno.
The defending Brabham Cup and Kelly Cup champion Aces clinched their third consecutive West Division title on Sunday. Looking to become the first team in ECHL history to repeat as regular season champion, Alaska is 45-14-5 and leads the league with 95 points, which is five points ahead of Las Vegas and seven points in front of Bakersfield (38-12-14). The Aces, who have lost back-to-back games for only the third time all season, continue their current eight-game road trip with games at Idaho, which is second in the West Division with 75 points (35-23-5), on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. 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 won both the Kelly Cup and the Brabham Cup in 1997.
Only two points separates Las Vegas (38-12-14) and Bakersfield (39-14-10) in their battle for the Pacific Division title. The two will meet two more times with the first game being Friday at Bakersfield. It is the only game of the week for the Wranglers, who have won their last five games, while the Condors will host Fresno on Wednesday. Bakersfield set team records for wins and road wins with seven consecutive victories from Mar. 4-16. In addition to its trip to Bakersfield, Fresno, which is in third place in the Pacific and fifth in the conference with 72 points (33-24-6), will host Long Beach on Tuesday and visit Phoenix on Saturday.
Gwinnett’s Schell Has Most Assists, Points In Seven Seasons
50 Goals Still In Reach For Cincinnati’s Wirll
Brad Schell and Scott Mifsud of Gwinnett rank first and second in the ECHL with 85 assists and 63 assists and are trying to become only the second set of teammates in league history to finish first and second in assists. The duo would join Louisiana’s Ron Handy and John De Pourcq, who finished first and second in 1996-97 with 67 assists and 63 assists, respectively.
Schell leads the league with 110 points and Mifsud is second with 88 points. Kimbi Daniels of Alaska is third with 61 assists and fourth with 78 points while Marty Flichel of Idaho is third with 79 points.
The 85 assists and 110 points by Schell are the most assists and points since 1999-2000 when John Spoltore of Louisiana had 92 assists and 119 points. The first player since 2002-03 to score 100 points, Schell is eight assists shy of the ECHL record of 93 assists 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.
The top five single-season point totals in ECHL history are: 161 by Trevor Jobe of Nashville in 1992-93, 148 by Bill McDougall of Erie in 1989-90, 144 by Hugo P. Belanger of Nashville in 1995-96, 140 by Stan Drulia of Knoxville in 1990-91 and 139 by Phil Berger of Greensboro in 1993-94.
Mike Wirll of Cincinnati scored his league-leading 41st goal on Mar. 14 against Reading. Wirll needs nine goals in his remaining 10 games to become the first ECHL player to score 50 goals since 2000-01 when Andrew Williamson of Toledo had 52 goals in 66 games. The most goals scored in the last five years is 49 by Chris Minard of Alaska in 2004-05.
Trenton’s Mike Pandolfo, who has been playing in the AHL with Lowell since Feb. 17, is second with 36 goals while Gwinnett’s Colton Fretter, who has not played since being injured on Feb. 14, Idaho’s Flichel and Victoria’s Wes Goldie are tied for third with 35 goals. The last time the ECHL had two 40-goal scorers was 2003-04 when San Diego’s Mark Pederson had 44 goals and Florida’s Brian McCullough had 40 goals. Flichel has nine games remaining and Goldie has eight games.
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.
Gwinnett, Florida, Texas Battle For South Division Title
Picking up eight points of a possible 10 points last week, South Carolina improved to 34-24-7 and moved into fourth place in the South Division with 75 points. The Stingrays are four points ahead of Augusta (34-26-3) and Charlotte (34-24-3) who are tied for fifth place with 71 points.
South Carolina won the Kelly Cup in 1997 and 2001 and has reached the postseason in every one of its 13 seasons which is the league record for most playoff appearances and consecutive playoff appearances. The Stingrays will play at Augusta on Thursday.
Gwinnett moved from third place to first place after picking up six points last week, including a shootout win against Florida on Mar. 18. The Gladiators (38-19-7) have 83 points which is one point more than the Everblades (38-20-5) and two points ahead of Texas (36-20-9). Gwinnett, which is 7-2-1 in the last 10 games, travels to Texas on Friday and Saturday. Looking for their first trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs since relocating to Beaumont in 2003-04, the Wildcatters have 29 more points than their best season in 2003-04 and have surpassed their highs with 35 wins, 19 road wins and 16 home wins. Texas was unable to play in 2005-06 in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
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.
Florida, which will host Columbia on Friday and Saturday, has advanced to the postseason every season since joining the league in 1998-99, including reaching the Kelly Cup Finals in 2004 and 2005.
Charlotte, which was 3-1-0 last week, plays at Pensacola on Tuesday, at Augusta on Friday and at South Carolina on Sunday. The Checkers are trying to reach the postseason three years in a row for the first time since advancing each of their first five seasons from 1994-98.
Looking for its first back-to-back Kelly Cup Playoffs appearances since 2000 and 2001, Augusta will host South Carolina on Thursday and Charlotte on Friday before traveling to Pensacola on Saturday.
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