Summer updates from Worcester

By Darryl Hunt - Last updated: Saturday, July 16, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

As the heat and humidity take hold in New England there’s still lots of news for fans of the Worcester Sharks.

It seems odd that the Atlanta Thrashers being purchased by True North and being moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba would have any impact at all on the WorSharks, but in the hockey world when one domino falls it occasionally knocks over some that don’t seem connected. The American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose, who are also owned by True North, were forced to vacate the MTS Centre as the returning Jets move in and relocated east to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

With the AHL already planning on going from a two division per conference setup to a three division configuration, the addition of another team in the East Conference means Worcester is going to lose some nearby rivals to a new division. The WorSharks will remain in the Atlantic Division with old friends Manchester (LA), Portland (PHX), and Providence (BOS). They will be joined in the Atlantic by newcomer St. John’s (WPG).

Former division rivals Springfield (CBJ), Connecticut (NYR), and Bridgeport (NYI) will join Albany (NJ) and Adirondack (PHI) in the newly formed Northeast Division. Binghamton (OTT), Hershey (WAS), Norfolk (TB), Syracuse (ANA), and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (PIT) will compete in the East Division to round out the Eastern Conference.

With the switch to three divisions per conference the AHL has changed from a divisional playoff format to a conference format, with the division winners being the top three seeds and the next best five teams qualifying. The AHL has also made a change to the opening round of the playoffs, going from a best of seven format to a best of five.

In addition of the playoff and conference changes the AHL is also dropping the number of regular season games from 80 to 76. The league has also eliminated the old “four in five” format that often saw teams playing games on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The AHL will be adding one week to the regular season to increase off days for teams.

Long before the AHL releases their final schedule teams release their matrix of opponents, so while we don’t know when the games will happen as of yet we do know who the WorSharks will play in the 2011-12 regular season. In the Atlantic Division Worcester will play Manchester, Providence, and Portland 12 times; and St John’s eight times. The games will be equally split home and away.

The rest of the conference schedule will have the WorSharks play Springfield eight times, Bridgeport six times, and they will see Connecticut and Albany four times. As with their division schedule these games will be equally split home and away. Worcester will also play Adirondack, Binghamton, Hershey, Syracuse, Wilkes-Barre Scranton in once each at home and on the road.

The only way the WorSharks will see a Western Conference team next season is if they make the Calder Cup Finals.

There have been several affiliation changes in the AHL. With True North purchasing Atlanta they will be using their own AHL for prospects, forcing the Vancouver Canucks to search for a new affiliate. They didn’t need to look very far as they took over the Thrashers old affiliation with the Chicago Wolves. In a three way swap forced by the Buffalo Sabres purchasing the AHL’s Rochester Americans, the Florida Panthers moved their affiliation from the Amerks to the San Antonio Rampage. The Phoenix Coyotes went from the Rampage to the Portland Pirates to take the opening created by Buffalo leaving.

For the latest hockey news from San Jose and Worcester you can follow both Sharkspage (@Sharkspage) and Darryl Hunt (@210Darryl) on Twitter.

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