We didn’t have much to say last season but if you saw any of the games in person, which if you’re reading this blog you probably did, you know there really wasn’t a whole lot of good stuff to blog about. We didn’t want to be overly negative which would have been very easy to do so we decided to follow our mom’s advice and keep our mouths shut. Sure, there were some good things last year; the home record, the play of Anthony Luciani, Dan Eves and Michael Pelech, as well as the play of some the fill in guys like Derek St. Marie, who made up for what he lacked skill wise with pure energy and really brought a spark to his linemates. However, when it was all said and done none of those things translated to team success and the ‘Clones missed the playoffs for just the 3rd time in Their history (more on that later). Well, we’ve let stew long enough and it’s time to come at the upcoming season with renewed energy.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be getting caught up on what’s been going on over the summer. So let’s get on with it….
The new North Division…
If you’ve been following League news over the summer, you know the Chicago Express are now defunct and have been replaced by the Fort Wayne Komets and the Evansville Iceman. Evansville bounced around minor league hockey before getting absorbed into the the IHL/CHL before making their way to the ECHL. We think Evansville is a good fit for the League.
Fort Wayne on the other hand might be a different story. The Komets are one of the longest standing minor league hockey teams out there. They have a storied history and great attendance, both of which are great for the ECHL. Then there’s the Komet’s ownership. There’s a lot of rumor and specualtion about the Frankes (Fort Waynes ownership) which if true could disrupt things within the League. If they decide to play by the Leagues rules, which so far it seems like they have, then their addition will be great for the Komets and the League.
The League will also welcome the Orlando Solar Bears to the South Division, as well as, the San Fransisco Bulls to the Western Conference’s Pacific Division. We’re excited to see both Orlando and San Fransisco join the League. The ‘Clones and Solar Bears will always share championship ingredient. Despite it being a different League, the Solar Bears, along with a young video analyst named Chuck Weber, bounced the Cyclones from the playoffs in 2001 on their way to capturing the IHL’s Turner Cup. Weber would later guide the Cyclones to two Kelly Cup Championships in his four years as the Cyclones head coach.
We’re also happy to see the League finally expanding westward with the addition of the San Fransisco Bulls. We haven’t been shy about voicing our displeasure with Western Conference’s eight teams and biased playoff format. The addition of the Bulls is a step in the right direction. However, it’s still not clear how an additional team will affect the Western Conference’s playoff format.
It’s a long season; 72 games, 36 home and away, but for teams getting off to a slow start the season can be over before you know it. The Cyclones will play 6 road games in Their 1st 10 games, and They won’t see a road trip longer than 2 games until December 28th thru January 4th when They’ll take on all 4 Divisional opponents. It’s a schedule that should really help if the Team is anything like last season Squad which struggled mightily on the road on road trips while excelling at home.
Diving into the schedule a little deeper, the ‘Clones will face North Division opponents 39 times, Atlantic Division opponents 18 times and the South Division 15 times. The League has brought back inter-conference play this season but none of the Western Conference teams will make their way to US Bank Arena.
As per usual the ‘Clones will see a division heavy schedule with 39 of Their games being played against North Division foes. They’ll play 20 of those games at home. The ‘Clones will face Toledo 9 times (4h/5a), Kalamazoo 8 times (5h/3a), Fort Wayne 9 times (3h/6a) and Evansville 13 times (8h/5a). It looks to be a favorable division schedule for the ‘Clones, facing what has been a dominate K-wings team just 8 times while getting new comers Evansville 13 times. We think those 13 games against the Ice Men will be key if the Cyclones are to make a run at returning to the top of the North Division.
The 18 Atlantic Division games are split evenly with 9 at home and 9 on the road. The 2012-2013 Squad will get an early season bonding opportunity when they head north to the thriving metropolis of Elmira, New York for a pair of games in late October. They’ll also get the Jackals 2 more times at USBA. The ‘Clones will see the Trenton Titans the most of any Atlantic Division team splitting a 6 game series. The Wheeling Nailers will make 3 visits to USBA while the Cyclones will be getting that “Wheeling Feeling” just twice. Three (2h/1a) matchups with Reading wrap up the Atlantic Division tilts.
The ‘Clones will make 3 trips south this season starting with an early trip to Greenville for 2 games in November. The Boys will head south again to play Greenville (1) again along with Gwinnett (1) in early February. They’ll wrap up Their journeys south with 4 game trip through Georgia (Gwinnett) and Florida (Florida -2, Orlando -1) in late March before they return home for the final 2 regular season games at US Bank Arena. Florida (3), South Carolina (3) and Orlando (1) will all make trips to Cincinnati this season.
Overall, the schedule looks favorable for the Cyclones given that there aren’t a lot of long road trips. Keys for the Cyclones will be the 13 matchups with newcomers Evansville and the final swing south. Given the divisional bias of the schedule if the ‘Clones can’t play .600 or better hockey within the division the playoffs will prove to be an uphill battle.
In our next post we’ll pass along our thoughts on the personnel behind the bench, as well as the affiliates.