Josh Pitt recorded a hat trick in a 5-3 win over the Norfolk Admirals, and the victory allowed the Kalamazoo Wings to clinch a spot in the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the fourth straight season. Their 74 points is 14 more than Tulsa who is currently in the fifth spot in the Central Division. Since the Oilers only have six more games left they won’t be able to catch the K-Wings for the fourth and final spot in the first round.
Kalamazoo’s challenge now is to see if they can catch Quad City to move up to the third seed and avoid a first-round match against Toledo. If they are able to do that, it sets up a nice match-up against their rival Fort Wayne who is comfortably in the second spot.
In late December, the playoffs were in doubt for a Kalamazoo team that was saddled with an 8-14-0-2 record. They were struggling to put the puck in the net and were tied for last in division with the Indy Fuel.
Led by Justin Taylor (56 points), mid-season acquisition Peter Schneider (42 points in 55 games with the K-Wings), and fourth-year pro Lane Scheidl’s career year (25 goals and 47 points) the offense found its groove.
Not only did they start putting more pucks in the net, they started keeping them out of the net as well. After a brief stint in Syracuse, Nick Riopel returned to Kalamazoo on January 21, and proceeded to win 13 out of his next 15 starts. He has teamed with veteran Joel Martin to give the K-Wings a solid tandem in net. Both netminders have 17 wins on the season and identical .904 SV%.
With two weeks left in the season, the K-Wings do have a chance to best last season’s 38 wins. They will also want to do better in the playoffs. Last season they were eliminated by the South Carolina Stingrays in five games.