MOLINE, IL — The ECHL released the 2016-2017 schedules for all 27 teams in the league Thursday, sending many fans to hotel booking sites to plan for road trips. The Mallards offered a break-down of their schedule for the upcoming season, but I’ll be offering my own take on the schedule.
Most of the Mallards’ home games will be played on Friday nights, with 16 match-ups occurring. Eight Saturday games will be played, with five Sunday games and a single Monday matinee on Martin Luther King Jr Day. The remaining six home games will be played on Wednesday nights. As always, Friday and Saturday games will start at 7, while Sundays will see 4 PM puck drop times. Wednesdays will feature the 6:35 PM start time began in the 2015-2016 season due to school nights.
The Mallards’ first game of the season will be at home on Oct. 14, in what will probably be the season’s first $1 Hot Dog/ $1 Beer Night presented by 97X. The home opening tilt will be against division rival the Fort Wayne Komets. The Flock and Komets will meet a total of 11 more times before the regular season ends, five of those being in Moline.
The Komets and Mallards had once been affiliated from 1995-1997, when the Komets had been in the International Hockey League (which later became the AHL) and the Mallards had been in the United Hockey League. The two then faced off for the first time on October 29, 1999 in Fort Wayne after Fort Wayne joined the United Hockey League. In 2003, the teams faced off in the Colonial Cup Finals, Fort Wayne taking the series 4-1 and winning the Colonial Cup.
The two teams would be absorbed into the Central Hockey League in 2010 after the Mallards’ return to the (new) IHL. The Komets would leave the CHL in after winning the 2012 Ray Miron Cup. The final game played between the Mallards and Komets in the CHL was on March 21, a Mallards 5-2 victory.
With the new schedule, the two teams will have the opportunity to renew a long rivalry. Many Komets players had moved to the Indiana-based team after playing for the Mallards, earning the fan-given title “Quad City East.”
The Mallards and Indy Fuel will see each other 10 times the upcoming season, perhaps sparking a new rivalry in the process. The two teams have not seen much of each other the last two seasons, only facing off a total of seven times in 2015-2016 and zero the year before.
Former CHL rivals and current ECHL enemies, the Missouri Mavericks will square off with the Mallards 10 times over the upcoming season after sweeping the Mallards in the first round just a few days ago. The second home game for the Mallards will be against the Mavericks in an early Wednesday match-up on Oct. 26. The season long series will be equally distributed, both teams playing five games at home against the other.
The Cincinnati Cyclones and Mallards will face off nine times through the season.
Another old rivalry could be renewed by the Kalamazoo Wings when they face the Mallards eight times. This rivalry stretched back to the UHL days; the Wings joined the ECHL immediately after leaving the UHL in 2007.
For the first time in almost 10 years to the day (nine years and 51 weeks, to be exact), the Elmira Jackals and Mallards will go head to head. The last time the teams played, the Mallards beat Elmira 6-1 on February 18. This season, the two teams will face off on Feb 11 and 12 in Moline.
The Allen Americans are absent from the Mallards schedule this year, though there will be 22 games against the other four CHL teams that had been absorbed by the ECHL in 2014. Four games will be played against the Wichita Thunder, three against the Tulsa Oilers, three against the Rapid City Rush, and two against the Brampton Beast. This season will mark the first time the Mallards have seen Brampton since April Fools Day 2015, and the first team the team will leave the US for Canada since February the same year.
The Mallards will have a game the day before Thanksgiving and a Black Friday game at home this season, as well as a Saint Patrick’s Day match-up in Moline against Missouri.
The Alaska Aces will journey to the Quad Cities on Friday March 31 and April Fool’s Day, the longest distance between the Mallards and an opponent.
“We’re pleased to be able to offer our fans a schedule with so many weekend dates and, in particular, so many home games on Fridays, which are typically our most successful nights,” Executive Vice President Bob Hoffman said in the Mallards press release. “In addition, since our schedule is weighted strongly toward our nearest geographical rivals, we will be able build on some tremendous existing rivalries and also create some exciting new ones.”
The Mallards season will begin in 169 days. Training Camp will begin approximately 21 days before then.