It all comes down to Day 192.
The 2011-12 American Hockey League regular season has been memorable for many ways, so it’s only fitting that it is ending in one of the most frantic finishes in recent memory. Six postseason spots remain unclaimed heading into the final day of the season, and eight teams are still hoping to punch their ticket to the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Today’s complete AHL Playoff Primer with full clinching scenarios is here, but here’s a snapshot of the playoff picture:
The Western Conference standings have been incredibly tight throughout the year, so it should come as no surprise that just two points separate fifth place from ninth with one day remaining. Milwaukee, San Antonio and Charlotte all control their fates; earn a single point today, and they’re in. But it’s not quite that easy, as the Rampage are hosting conference-leading Oklahoma City and the Admirals and Checkers are facing off against each other.
Rochester, already in the clubhouse having completed their schedule with a big win at Lake Erie last night, needs either a San Antonio loss in regulation, or for the Milwaukee-Charlotte game to be decided in regulation, to clinch a playoff spot.
The last game of the day, facing off at 6:05 ET, sees Houston hosting Texas. If the Admirals, Rampage, Checkers and Americans haven’t all wrapped up the final four playoff spots already, the Aeros can still crash the party by beating the Stars. There’s even one complicated scenario that could see Houston and Rochester fighting for the last berth; because of tiebreakers, Houston would need to beat Texas by at least nine goals to get in.
The Eastern Conference is a little les complicated, with seventh-place Syracuse holding a one-point lead over Manchester and Portland entering Sunday’s action. The Crunch (at Albany) clinch with a win, or if the Monarchs or Pirates lose in regulation, or if they lose in OT/SO and so does either of tht other two. Manchester is in with a win over St. John’s or a Portland regulation loss; they’d need a little help if they lose themselves. And Portland needs to earn at least one point in Providence and hope either the Crunch or Monarchs do at least one point worse.
The 10 teams who have clinched their playoff spots have also all locked in their respective seeds for the postseason. In the East, Norfolk, which brings a 27-game winning streak into Sunday’s finale at Adirondack, will be the top seed, followed by St. John’s at #2. Bridgeport (3) and Connecticut (6) will meet in an in-state showdown in the first round, as will Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (4) and Hershey (5).
In the West, Oklahoma City (1), Toronto (2), Chicago (3) and Abbotsford (4) have secured the top four seeds and home-ice advantage in their conference quarterfinal series.
Playoff schedules will be announced at the conclusion of play tonight. The first round of the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs will be a best-of-series, in either a 2-2-1 or a 2-3 format (if 2-3, the higher seed has the option of playing the first two or the last three games at home). Stay tuned to theahl.com and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates all day long.
It’s the most exciting day of the season, so don’t get left out. Catch all of today’s climactic action on AHL Live, with coverage beginning with the first puck drop at 3:00 ET.