Five teams, two spots.
The American Hockey League’s 2012-13 regular season comes down to the 192nd and final day with plenty still up for grabs. Fourteen teams know that their seasons will continue after today, but the races for the eighth and final berth in both conferences will go down to the wire.
In the Eastern Conference, Hershey, Norfolk and Connecticut enter Sunday tied for eighth place with 79 points.
At 3:05 p.m. ET, the Admirals face off in Providence, not controlling their own fate but needing at least one point to keep their hopes alive. At 5 p.m. ET, the Bears host Manchester, knowing they need a point also — and to at least match what Norfolk does. If Norfolk and Hershey finish tied at either 80 or 81 points, the Bears would own the tiebreaker.
Connecticut is idle on Sunday, completing its schedule with a 5-1 loss in Portland on Saturday — the club’s sixth straight defeat. But all hope is not yet lost for the Whale: if Norfolk and Hershey both lose in regulation today, Connecticut would claim eighth place based on having more non-shootout wins (33) than either the Admirals or Bears.
In the Western Conference, Milwaukee and Rockford are both surging towards the finish, but there isn’t room for both of them at the playoff table.
Milwaukee, 14-4-1-0 in its last 19 games, closes out the season in Peoria while Rockford, 20-6-1-0 since Feb. 16, wrapped up its regular season with a come-from-behind 5-3 road win over conference-leading Texas on Saturday night.
Simply, the Admirals clinch the last playoff spot with at least a point against the Rivermen in the AHL’s final game of the season on Sunday — a 6:05 p.m. ET faceoff. A regulation loss by Milwaukee sends the IceHogs into the postseason thanks to the second tiebreaker — a Rockford win in the season series with the Ads.
The league’s scoring race is coming down to the season’s final day also. Rockford forward Brandon Pirri is in the clubhouse atop the leaderboard with 75 points, having erupted for 19 points in his last nine games. Pirri has a four-point lead over Hershey’s Jeff Taffe, who has notched at least four points in a game three times since the beginning of March.
All of Sunday’s action can be seen on AHL Live (www.ahllive.com) with coverage beginning at 3 ET.