Welcome to the final weekend of the regular season! After almost 6 months of hockey, there is still one spot remaining for the Kelly Cup Playoffs and the Brabham Cup is still up for grabs.
Here are the teams that have qualified for the playoffs, which begin Tuesday night in Allen:
- Toledo Walleye (North Division Champion)
- Fort Wayne Komets (North)
- Kalamazoo Wings (North)
- Florida Everblades (East Division Champion)
- South Carolina Stingrays (East)
- Reading Royals (East)
- Orlando Solar Bears (East)
- Allen Americans (Central Division Champion and top seed in Western Conf playoffs)
- Rapid City Rush (Central)
- Quad City Mallards (Central)
- Tulsa Oilers (Central)
- Idaho Steelheads (Pacific Division Champion, clinch #2 seed in Western Conf playoffs)
- Ontario Reign (Pacific)
- Colorado Eagles (Pacific)
- Utah Grizzlies (Pacific)
Home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs will be awarded to the top 2 teams in each division.
The lone playoff spot still up for grabs belongs in the North Division, where the Wheeling Nailers, Cincinnati Cyclones and Indy Fuel are in a three-way tie. The Nailers are in control of their playoff destiny, as they have two games remaining.
Wheeling can clinch a playoff spot tonight with a win and if Cincinnati and Indy both lose in regulation. A second scenario exists where the Nailers can clinch a berth if they lose in overtime or shootout and Cincinnati and Indy both lose.
Quad City and Tulsa will meet tonight in Moline, IL, with the winner getting the #3 seed and a date with the Rapid City Rush in the opening round.
Here are the opening round matchups, if the playoffs began today:
(1) Toledo Walleye v. (4) Wheeling Nailers
(2) Fort Wayne Komets v. (3) Kalamazoo Wings
(1) Florida Everblades v. (4) Orlando Solar Bears
(2) South Carolina Stingrays v. (3) Reading Royals
(1) Allen Americans v. (4) Quad City Mallards
(2) Rapid City Rush v. (3) Tulsa Oilers
(1) Idaho Steelheads v. (4) Utah Grizzlies
(2) Ontario Reign v. (3) Colorado Eagles
Brabham Cup Update:
The race for the Brabham Cup has been narrowed down to three teams; Toledo (105 pts), Allen (104 pts) and Florida (103 pts.) The Walleye can clinch the regular-season title with a win or a Florida loss and an Allen loss in regulation. Toledo can also clinch by losing in overtime or shootout and if Allen loses.
Whoever ends up winning the Brabham Cup will snap the 4-year winning streak held by the Alaska Aces (2011-14.) Here are teams that have won the Brabham Cup more than once:
- Alaska 5 times (2006, 11, 12, 13, 14)
- Louisiana 2 times (1998, 2002)
- Knoxville 2 times (1991, 94)
- Toledo 2 times (1992, 2003)
- Wheeling 2 times (1993, 1995)
Winning the regular-season championship is not necessarily a recipe for winning a Kelly Cup title. In the 27 years of the ECHL, only three teams have won both the Brabham and Kelly Cup titles, here is a list:
- South Carolina 1997
- Alaska 2006
- Cincinnati 2008
- Alaska 2008, 14
If Toledo wins, it would be their third Brabham Cup championship and quite a turn around for the team. Last year the Walleye finished in last place in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 21-44-4-3 (49 pts.)