In the final quarter of the ECHL's regular season, the Alaska Aces lead the race for the Brabham Cup, which assures the winner home-ice advantage throughout the Kelly Cup playoffs. Three of the current top five teams on the 23-team circuit come from the Western Conference, and here's how they stand:
Team Record Points Games Left
Alaska Aces 38-11-6 82 17
Ontario Reign 36-13-5 77 18
Reading Royals 35-14-6 76 17
Idaho Steelheads 34-15-5 73 18
Cincinnati Cyclones 31-17-6 68 18
In the Alaska Aces' nine previous ECHL seasons, they are the only club to win the Brabham Cup, earned by the hockey league's regular-season champion, more than once.
The Aces have won the Brabham three times (2012, 2011 and 2006) and are leading the chase for a third consecutive title as teams enter the final quarter of the 72-game regular season. They are the only franchise in the ECHL's previous 24 seasons to win consecutive Brabham Cups and also the only club to win the Brabham three times.
The Brabham is meaningful on several fronts. The winner earns home-ice advantage throughout the Kelly Cup playoffs, the trophy is a nice reward for the winning franchise, which gets to hang a banner from the rafters, and the Cup-winning players split $4,150.
Alaska owns a five-point lead on Ontario atop the overall standings and has 17 games remaining to Ontario's 18. Only three other teams -- the Reading Royals. Idaho Steelheads and Cincinnati Cyclones -- are within 14 points of the Aces.
The three times the Aces won the Brabham have all come down to the wire -- they won it on the penultimate night of the regular season last year and in 2006, and in 2011 won it on the final night of the regular season.
Only four times in ECHL history has the winner of the Brabham Cup gone on to lift the Kelly Cup. The Aces did it twice, though -- in 2011 and 2006.
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News