We’ve reached the goal line.
The 198th and final day of the American Hockey League’s 2021-22 regular season will feature nine games, and the final pieces of the Calder Cup Playoff puzzle are ready to fall into place.
Saturday’s complete AHL Playoff Primer is here, and there is plenty still at stake after six and a half months of regular-season hockey.
In the North Division, the fifth and final playoff spot will be decided when the Toronto Marlies visit the Belleville Senators (3 p.m. ET). A single point earned by Toronto sends the Marlies to the Calder Cup Playoffs, but a regulation loss gives the spot to the Rochester Americans, who did their part last night with a resounding 8-1 win over the division champion Utica Comets.
Belleville has a lot riding on its game also. The Senators need a win over Toronto, combined with a Laval Rocket regulation loss at the second-place Syracuse Crunch (7 p.m. ET), to secure third place and a bye into the division semifinals. Any other combination gives third place to the Rocket and sends Belleville to a best-of-three first-round date with Toronto or Rochester.
Over in the Pacific Division, the third, fourth and fifth seeds will be decided today. The Abbotsford Canucks control their destiny: a win at Manitoba this afternoon (3 p.m. ET) gives the Canucks third place and a date with the Henderson Silver Knights in the first round. It would also secure fourth place for the Colorado Eagles and fifth for the Bakersfield Condors, who would square off in their own first-round series in Loveland, Colo. But a loss by the Canucks would give Colorado the third spot, and if it’s a regulation loss it would also open the door for Bakersfield to grab fourth with a win tonight vs. the Stockton Heat (9 p.m. ET). The 2-vs-7 matchup is set, as the Ontario Reign are gearing up to host a best-of-three with the rival San Diego Gulls.
Stockton has wrapped up first place ― and with it the Pacific’s only bye into the division semis ― but the Heat are locked in a battle for the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy for the best record in the AHL. The Central Division champion Chicago Wolves need to earn at least a point in their visit to the Rockford IceHogs (7 p.m. ET) to put the pressure on Stockton. The rest of the Central Division playoff picture was set last night ― Rockford will host the Texas Stars in a best-of-three first-round series with the winner advancing to face Chicago, while the second-place Manitoba Moose will square off against the third-place Milwaukee Admirals in the division semifinals.
The Atlantic Division draw is also set: the first-place Charlotte Checkers and second-place Springfield Thunderbirds earned first-round byes, and await the winners of the opening series between the Providence Bruins and Bridgeport Islanders, and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears.
The AHL’s heated scoring race comes down to the wire today as well. Chicago’s Andrew Poturalski, bidding for his second consecutive scoring title, enters the final night of the season with 99 points, one ahead of Ontario’s T.J. Tynan (98) for the John B. Sollenberger Trophy. Poturalski and the Wolves will have wrapped up their game in Rockford by the time Tynan and the Reign drop the puck in Henderson tonight (10 p.m. ET).
Full playoff schedules will be announced no later than at the conclusion of play tonight. The first round of the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs will be a best-of-three series, followed by best-of-five division semifinals and division finals, the best-of-seven conference finals and the best-of-seven Calder Cup Finals. Stay tuned to theahl.com and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates all day long.
Don’t get left out — Catch all of today’s climactic action on AHLTV, with coverage beginning with the first puck drop at 3 p.m. ET.