The ECHL Board of Governors restructured the Kelly Cup playoff format at their annual summer meeting last week and awarded seven berths to the eight-team National Conference.
"We deliberated for several hours over a couple days about that," said Justin Kemp, the Reign's executive vice president of business operations who represented the team at the meeting. "Ultimately we got what we thought was most fair for everybody."
Under the old format, which awarded playoff berths to the top four teams in the Pacific and West divisions, every team in the conference (including the Reign) would have advanced. The conference went from nine to eight teams when the Phoenix Roadrunners ceased operations at the end of last season.
Under the new format, the first-place team in each division will be awarded a playoff berth, followed by the next five teams in the conference standings. Only the worst team in the conference will miss the playoffs.
The division winner with the best record will receive a first-round bye while the other division winner will play the conference's No. 7 seed in the first round. The third and sixth seeds and the fourth and fifth seeds will meet in the other first-round series.
"Unlike last year, this will be seeded by conference, where everybody has the same percentage of playing Victoria or Alaska, which is what teams like us, Stockton and Las Vegas don't want to do," Kemp said.
"It makes a huge difference on the expense side to have to go up there."
The Board also voted to reduce all first-round playoff series from seven games to five, featuring a 2-3 format. The higher-seeded teams have the choice of beginning or ending the series at home, and if the teams are less than 350 miles apart they can choose a 2-2-1 format.
The Reign play within 350 miles of two teams, the Bakersfield Condors and Las Vegas Wranglers.
Teams will not be re-seeded in the second playoff round, which means the top seed will play the winner of the 4-5 series while the winner of the 2-7 series will play the winner of the 3-6 series.
For more information and other major ECHL announcements check out Hoornstra's blog at this link