Aug 182011

The American Hockey League was finally able to release their 2011-12 regular season schedule on Thursday, exactly fifty days prior to the league’s official opener, October 7th.

Rockford will open its season on Saturday night, October 8th versus the Grand Rapids Griffins at the formerly-named MetroCentre, now the BMO Harris Bank Center.

The next day the IceHogs play their first road game at Peoria.  That October 9th contest against the Rivermen begins a four-game road trip continuing with two games in Abbotsford on Oct 14 and 16.  After five days off, the IceHogs make their first trip to Allstate Arena in Rosemont for the ’11-12 seasons’ initial meeting with the Chicago Wolves, brand new affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks.

In all, the IceHogs and Wolves meet twelve times during the new campaign.  In a weird twist, the Hogs-Wolves season series will be complete by Feb 26th.  The rivals will meet on back-to-back days on three separate occasions: Oct 21-22, Jan 20-21 and Feb 10-11 (both of these games are in Rockford).

Here’s the IceHogs-Wolves slate in full:

Fri Oct 21 – @ Chicago – 7:30
Sat Oct 22 – in Rockford – 7:05
Fri Dec 9 – in Rockford – 7:05
Thu Dec 29 – @ Chicago – 7:00
Wed Jan 11 – @ Chicago – 11:00am
Fri Jan 20 – in Rockford – 7:05
Sat Jan 21 – @ Chicago – 7:00
Fri Feb 3 – @ Chicago – 7:30
Fri Feb 10 – in Rockford – 7:05
Sat Feb 11 – in Rockford – 7:05
Fri Feb 24 – @ Chicago – 7:30
Sun Feb 26 – in Rockford – 5:05pm

–You can download the IceHogs 2011-12 calendar here [PDF]

With the full league realignment this off season, breaking the two conferences down into three divisions each, Rockford now resides in the Mid-West Division in the Western Conference.  Accompanying them are familiar rivals Milwaukee Admirals, Peoria and Chicago.  Gone are Houston, Texas, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, all now in the West division.  The fifth and final Mid-West member are the Charlotte Checkers, affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Rockford will face Chicago, Peoria and Milwaukee each twelve times; six home and six on the road.  The season series with Charlotte, however, will be eight games.

The Rivermen and IceHogs will complete 9 of their 12 contests by New Years Eve.

While the IceHogs’ calendar will be busy with matchups against the Wolves and Peoria early, 7 of Rockford’s 12 meetings with Milwaukee will come between February 25 and April 13.

Charlotte comes to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Nov 6, Dec 30, Tuesday April 10th and Saturday night Arpil 14th, which is Rockford’s regular season finale.

The season is balanced nicely for Rockford this time around.  They get a lot of home cooking early and late, which affords new head coach Ted Dent plenty of practice and teaching time.

17 of the ‘Hogs first 29 games will be at BMO Harris Bank Center.  And they’ll also play 8 of their final 12 at home.

Rockford’s longest road trip of the year is eight games, starting on New Years Eve in Peoria.  That is also during a stretch, beginning December 26, that sees the IceHogs play 9 of 10 on the road.  However, they’ll spend just 8 of those 21 days actually on the road, split into two trips.

In a division where four of five teams are just a swift bus ride away from one another, the IceHogs’ travel schedule is relatively light.  There are just five extended trips.  Oct 13-16, Nov 17-20, Jan 5-8, Jan 12-14 and Mar 12-17.  Overall, they’ll spend a total of 29 overnights on the road, give or take one or two, for the entire season.

The AHL reduced this season’s schedule from 80 to 76 games.  Yet, the AHL and NHL seasons spark the same weekend and the AHL stretches a full week longer than the NHL.  The reason is a new AHL mandate, prohibiting a team from playing four games over five calendar days, something Rockford did three times last season.

Since teams favor family-friendly weekend dates, games still get crammed tight.  Rockford will skate 3 games over 4 days on seven times.  You could probably call that seven and a half since one of those is actually four games in six days.

Rockford plays three games in three days nine different times.  First time comes December 2-4.  Those twenty-seven games are split fairly; thirteen on the road and fourteen at home.

Due to budgetary and travel constraints, Rockford will face just 13 of the AHL’s other 29 teams.  They won’t see any of the Eastern Conference occupants.  The only Western Conference team the IceHogs will not face are the Rochester Americans, who Rockford didn’t see last season either.

Here’s how the opponent cycle breaks down:

West division: Abbotsford Heat (4x), Houston Aeros (4), Oklahoma City Barons (4), San Antonio Rampage (4), Texas Stars (4)

Mid-West division: Charlotte Checkers (8), Chicago Wolves (12), Milwaukee Admirals (12), Peoria Rivermen (12)

North division: Grand Rapids Griffins (4), Hamilton Bulldogs (2), Lake Erie Monsters (4), Toronto Marlies (2), Rochester Americans (0)

Ex-Blackhawks assistant John Torchetti is the new head coach of the Houston Aeros.  The Aeros first Rockford visit isn’t until Friday March 23rd.  The rematch the next night in Rockford to fulfill Houston’s two visits.

Hamilton and Montreal Canadiens prospects visit on Tuesday March 20th… Toronto Marlies come to Rockford on Wednesday December 21st (the same night Montreal visits the United Center).

IceHogs’ 2011-12 season by day (Home/Away)

Monday (1 / 1)
Tuesday (3 / 1)
Wednesday (6 / 3)
Thursday (0 / 2)
Friday (10 / 14)
Saturday (14 / 9)
Sunday (4 / 8 )

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