The Wichita Thunder announced their 2015-16 schedule on Monday. For fans of the former CHL, it is nice to have the schedule before the late summer period, with last year’s CHL schedule came out in late August.
It is the earliest schedule release in the history of the ECHL. In a press release, the league says there are several advantages to an early release. “The release allows teams to plan and execute special promotional nights during the first half of the season and allowing fans ample time to plan their schedule.”
“In addition, fans will see more variety and many first-time visitors to their arenas. Not only will fans see new teams, they will have more opportunity to see how their team stacks up against the top performers in other divisions or conference.”
Wichita will remain in the western conference and in the central division. Here is a breakdown of the teams in the western conference for next season:
Cincinnati Cyclones, Evansville IceMen, Fort Wayne Komets, Indy Fuel, Quad City Mallards
Allen Americans, Missouri Mavericks, Tulsa Oilers, Wichita Thunder
Alaska Aces, Colorado Eagles, Idaho Steelheads, Rapid City Rush, Utah Grizzlies
In case you missed it, the playoff format for next season has changed as well. Division winners will earn a top-3 seed. The next 5 highest point totals will also earn playoff berths. All series will be best-of-seven to determine a champion.
Now, onto the schedule.
The Thunder will open their 2015-16 season on the road in Tulsa on October 16, with their home opener the next night against the Quad City Mallards.
The majority of the Thunder’s home schedule, 26 of 36 home games, will be played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. In fact, of the Thunder’s 72 games, 57 of them will be played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
Digging deeper into the schedule, exactly half of the schedule will be played against other teams in the Central Division; Allen Americans (13 times,) Missouri Mavericks (15 times,) and Tulsa Oilers (13 times.) The Thunder will play every team in the western conference except the Fort Wayne Komets and will not have to travel to Anchorage to play the Alaska Aces.
Wichita will rekindle their rivalry with the Colorado Eagles at Intrust Bank Arena beginning October 30 & 31. It will be the first time the Eagles and Thunder have played since the 2010-11 season.
Here is the breakdown of opponents on the Thunder schedule:
Alaska – 2 (2 home, 0 away)
Allen – 13 (6 home, 7 away)
Cincinnati – 1 (1 home, 0 away)
Colorado – 6 (3 home, 3 away)
Evansville – 3 (1 home, 2 away)
Idaho – 2 (2 home, 0 away)
Indy – 2 (1 home, 1 away)
Missouri – 15 (8 home, 7 away)
Quad City – 7 (4 home, 3 away)
South Carolina – 2 (2 home, 0 away)
Rapid City – 3 (0 home, 3 away)
Tulsa – 13 (6 home, 7 away)
Utah – 3 (0 home, 3 away)
It will be a tough schedule for Wichita, who will play 8 teams currently in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The combined winning percentage of teams on the Thunder schedule is .567.
Here is a breakdown of home games by day:
Monday – 0
Tuesday – 3
Wednesday – 7
Thursday – 0
Friday – 10
Saturday – 10
Sunday – 6
Here is a breakdown of road games by day:
Monday – 1
Tuesday – 2
Wednesday – 1
Thursday – 1
Friday – 9
Saturday – 15
Sunday – 7
The longest homestand for Wichita comes in late March when they have a 7-game home stand. The busiest month at home for the team comes in November, when the Thunder have 8 home games.
The team will have a pair of 7-game road trips. The first road trip comes from December 5th to December 19th, the second from February 27th to March 13th when they will travel to the Allen Event Center 4 times during the trip.