The AHL schedule was released earlier this afternoon, much to the excitement of AHL and NHL fans alike. There's more interest than I can ever remember in the league from NHL fans, which makes this kind of even more exciting. Any publicity we can get, any chatter we receive, any news that's shared outside of the usual sphere of AHL fans and organizations can only be great for our league.
Every team in the AHL plays a 76 game slate during the regular-season. The league used to play 80, but last summer the powers-that-be asked the AHL to cut down the schedule in order to help the players deal with travel time and help young prospects adjust to the grueling schedule. The league complied, leaving us with our 76 games. One of the immediate effects of that adjustment was to eliminate 4-in-5's (four games in five nights), something that was quite often scheduled in this league before the change. Although 76 games still left room for plenty of 3-in-3's (three games in three nights), many of the of the players were thankful for the slightly roomier schedule. Most teams average about six to eight 3-in-3's a season.
Due to the geographical differences between the two teams, the Crunch's schedule probably looks a bit different from what you've been used to with the Norfolk Admirals. I have some highlights behind the cut!
- The Crunch will play 30 of their 76 games against East Division opponents. The Crunch is located in the East Division. Those teams are Binghamton (Ottawa Senators), Hershey (Washington Capitals), Norfolk (Anaheim Ducks), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pittsburgh Penguins). The Baby Sens will be played 8 times, Hersey 6, Norfolk 8, and WBS 8.
- The new farm team of the Ducks comes to town for the first time since the affiliation switch on December 28th. The Crunch then returns the favor and visits Scope Arena in Norfolk on January 4th and 5th. The Admirals and the Crunch play each other a record 8 times this year. I think both front offices must be figuring this will be a great new rivalry for both teams. NOR and Syracuse met only four times last year.
- Elsewhere in the league, Syracuse will play Adirondack (Philadelphia Flyers) 8 times, Albany (New Jersey Devils) 8 times, Bridgeport (New York Islanders) twice, Connecticut (New York Rangers) twice, and Springfield (Columbus Blue Jackets) twice. They also play Hamilton (Montreal Canadiens) 4 times, Lake Erie (Colorado Avalanche) twice, Rochester (Buffalo Sabres) 10 times, and Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs) twice.
- The Crunch does not play 17 teams in the AHL. Some notables not in our schedule: Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes) and Providence (Boston Bruins). Norfolk played both of those teams fairly often last year.
- The Crunch start off the season away on Friday, October 12th, at Rochester. The Crunch has a rather large rivalry with the Americans, so absolutely no one was surprised by this. Syracuse was 4-6 against the Amerks last year. One interesting thing to note here is that Norfolk didn't play Rochester at all last year, so the whole Amerks/Crunch thing is going to be very new to our players.
- Opening Night at the Onondaga County War Memorial will be October 13th against Hershey. The Crunch was 2-4 against Hershey last year. More relevant is probably Norfolk's record against the Bears., going 5-5 against them last season.
- NHL fans, take note: The Crunch's 11/9 tilt against the Hamilton Bulldogs will apparently be in Montreal.
- We have our first 3-in-3 almost right off the bat. The second weekend of hockey the Crunch is completely away, playing three games in a row against Albany, Binghamton, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
- The Crunch has an insanely home-loaded end of the season: its final 5 games are all at home. The Crunch usually does very well at the War memorial, so this could be a huge advantage for the team.
- The Crunch closes the season at home on April 21st against the Baby Sens. This is the first time in recent memory that the Crunch actually ends the year at home. We've been away the last few years.