Upon completion of the regular season next Wednesday, each conference will begin play in best-of-three first round series (1 v. 8, 2 v. 7, 3 v.6, 4 v. 5) that must be completed by Wednesday, March 2.
First-round series winners will then be re-seeded with the highest remaining seed facing the fourth seed and the second seed meeting the third seed in best-of-three second-round series that must be completed by Wednesday, March 9.
Crossover play kicks in for the best-of-three semifinal round March 10-16. The top remaining seed from each conference will face the second highest seed from the other conference.
In the Championship Series, home ice will be determined by the higher seed if teams are from the same conference; or by head-to-head regular-season results if from different conferences. The higher seed has the option of determining either a 2-2-1 or 2-3 format for the best-of-five series.
The first-place Boston Bandits (28-7-4) have allowed a conference-low 91 goals and will lock up the top seed with three points in their two remaining games at the Valley Warriors (Friday) and home against Walpole (Sunday). Eduards Tralmaks (28-27-55), Scott Donahue (16-26-42) and Nate Chase (16-24-40) lead the attack.
A Bandits’ loss would open the door for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (25-7-6) – provided they win their games Friday (vs. Rangers), tomorrow (vs. Wizards) and Sunday (vs. Wolves). The Monarchs had three road wins this past week – against the Warriors (4-0), Cyclones (3-2) and Rangers (8-7, SO). Team scoring leader Connor Powell (24-32-56) had eight points, including the game-winner against the Warriors.
With a single game remaining against the Lumberjacks on Sunday, the Northern Cyclones (25-14-1) can’t move up, can’t be caught and will be the third seed. Jarrod Fitzpatrick (16-28-44), Joey Meehan (19-22-41) and Nolan Redler (18-22-40) lead the offense.
The Walpole Express (20-12-8) has but a single game remaining Sunday against the Bandits and will remain the fourth seed regardless. Dan Eruzione had a hat trick in a 3-2 win against the Bandits on Feb. 11.
The next three spots remain unsettled.
The Boston Jr. Rangers (18-17-4), currently fifth, are on the road Friday (Monarchs) and Saturday (Warriors) and could slip to sixth. Eriks Zohovz’s six-point week included the shootout winner against Walpole and the GWG against the Wolves.
The sixth-place Valley Jr. Warriors (17-20-2) could jump to fifth or fall to seventh depending on the outcomes of their games Friday (vs. Bandits) and Saturday (vs. Rangers). Meanwhile, the Lumberjacks (15-22-2) could climb to sixth with wins Friday (vs. Wolves) and Sunday (at Cyclones) and a bit of help.
The New England Wolves (11-27-1) are the eighth seed and will draw the Bandits or Monarchs. Either way, no easy task.
The Philadelphia Little Flyers (30-8-0) have got this, right? One would think, considering they still hold game(s) in hand over all but two teams, neither of which can catch them. While there is a slight chance they could finish second, they finish on the road with three very manageable games against the sixth-place New Jersey Rockets (Sunday) and the eighth-place Connecticut Nighthawks (Tuesday and Wednesday). Their league-best +98 differential should climb to triple figures
The Connecticut Oilers (28-10-2) can’t be caught for second place and are all but certain to stay right there unless they receive unexpected help from unlikely sources. They wrap up their schedule Saturday with a visit to the New York Bobcats.
Pay close watch to the Philadelphia Revolution (25-11-3), the Hartford Jr. Wolfpack (24-9-5) and the New York Bobcats (24-12-3). First-round home ice is at stake as each could finish as high as third place or as low as fifth.
The key series features the Revolution visiting the Wolfpack on Sunday and Monday. The Wolfpack also host the Nighthawks Saturday while the Bobcats host the Oilers (Saturday) and Jr. Flyers (Sunday).
Wolfpack goalie Michael Dion has been hot, amassing 66 total saves in recent wins against Applecore (4-2) and the Bobcats (4-2), emerging as a solid second option behind Kyle Carducci.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats’ Corey Kennedy (17-30-57) is on a tear that has seen him click for four goals and nine points in his past three games.
The New Jersey Rockets (20-16-3) will clinch the sixth seed with a home win against the seventh-place Junior Flyers (17-15-7) on Saturday. Or Philly could force the issue with a win on Saturday, with resolution based on the results of the Rockets-Little Flyers and Junior Flyers-Bobcats tilts on Sunday. The Rockets’ scoring leader Doug Elgstam (28-26-54) is tied for the league lead in goals and is one a five-game, 18-point tear.
The Nighthawks (11-25-2) will finish eighth and finish up at the Wolfpack Saturday before hosting the Little Flyers for a pair in a likely first-round preview.