ORLANDO, FLA – It looks like the drama that is the ECHL Eastern conference playoff race will go down to the final two weeks. Even with two teams having locked up trips to the post season, there are still eight teams mathematically alive for the final six spots. Beyond that, none of the seeds have been set yet as seven points separate the current top six teams.
The race at the top of the standings continues to be just as close as it was a month ago. The top four squads have a mere three points between them with a slew of head-to-head matchups in the coming week that could help to determine who ends up where.
Both the Reading Royals and the Kalamazoo Wings have clinched invitations to the 2014 Kelly Cup playoffs but still have plenty to play for in the final six games. The Royals (42-21-2-1) currently sit atop the table with 87 points while the Wings (39-20-2-5) are nipping at their heels with 85 points. Reading has won seven of its last ten games and Kalamazoo has won six and lost two in extra time during the same stretch.
Later this week, the teams will square off twice in Reading with a lot on the line. In six previous meetings this season, the Wings have won four of the games.
Third place in the conference standings is being shared right now by the top two teams in the South division. The Orlando Solar Bears (40-22-2-2) are listed in the third spot by virtue of having one more win than the South Carolina Stingrays (39-22-2-4).
The Solar Bears, who are coming off winning two of their last three games, have been a .500 team in the last ten games with a 5-5 record. The Stingrays have had just as tough a time, going 4-5-0-1 over the period. Both teams are on the road this week with Orlando visiting Reading on Wednesday before hitting Elmira and Wheeling while South Carolina, who put goalie Jeff Jakaitis back on the injured reserve list on Monday, is in Estero to take on the Florida Everblades three times.
The battle for the fifth spot is just as heated as the race at the top. The Greenville Road Warriors (38-23-2-3) are holding the number five spot at 81 points but the Cincinnati Cyclones (37-22-2-4) are right behind at 80 points. Over the past couple of weeks, the teams have been going back and forth with each spending time where Greenville currently sits.
The Road Warriors have cooled off a bit, going 7-3 in their last ten contests. Cincinnati has been scuffling along at 5-2-1-2 in its last ten. Greenville has a home and home set with division rival Gwinnett this coming weekend while the Cyclones visit Fort Wayne twice wrapped around a home contest with Evansville.
The last two available post season positions have four teams fighting tooth and nail for them. As of Tuesday morning, the Wheeling Nailers (35-25-1-5) are holding down the seventh seed with 76 points, just two points ahead of the Fort Wayne Komets (31-23-7-5) which has 74 points.
The Nailers have been playing well of late, winning seven of their last tem games while the Komets have hovered around the .500 mark at 5-4-1-0 over the past ten. Wheeling has a pair of games with Toledo and battles with Evansville and Orlando on the schedule this week while Fort Wayne takes on Cincinnati twice and Toledo once.
The Florida Everblades (33-26-3-4) and the Evansville IceMen (29-27-4-7) are both on the outside looking in at 73 and 69 points respectively. The Everblades are 5-5 in their previous ten games while the IceMen are 3-6-1-0.
Neither team can afford any more losses. Florida’s final push starts with a three game set at home against South Carolina while Evansville continues its season ending long road trip with games in Cincinnati, Wheeling and Elmira.
Follow us on Twitter @prohockeynews