Pack Should Thrive With Ideal Schedule
On Tuesday afternoon, the American Hockey League released Hartford’s 21st schedule. The journey begins at home on Friday, October 6th against a former foe, the Charlotte Checkers. Charlotte returns to Hartford for the first time since the 2010-11 season. In addition, Hartford will face the newly established franchises of Rockets de Laval, Binghamton Devils, and the Belleville Senators. The season features a balanced schedule between the home and away slate. From October 6th to December 31st, Hartford will play 17 games both on the road and in Hartford. In 2018, Hartford plays 21 home and away contests. However, there will be one challenge for the upcoming season. Hartford plays three games in three nights multiple times and that will be tough. Overall, Hartford has the upper hand from a scheduling perspective. Compared to other teams, the club has balance in each month. Travel is logical and when they do go far, it is for multiple games with rest periods. Let’s dissect the schedule!
Three in Threes
Common in the American Hockey League, teams play three straight games from Friday to Sunday. From a business standpoint, the league prefers games on weekends as they draw well. The league tends to give teams weekend dates rather than the weekday. However, the league has cut back by giving a team to play Friday then Sunday, rather than three in a row. Teams will also have a few weekday outings, generally Wednesday then two on the weekend. From a player standpoint, three straight games are tough to handle! They are difficult to complete in. On the plus side, prospects will adapt to the schedule and excel with compact games. There is limited time to dwell on tough losses or fantastic wins. Play one game, prepare for the next. The schedule allows players to bounce back the night after if they had a rough game the previous night. The Wolf Pack this season have 10 three in threes. The veterans of the team will be used to these as opposed to a first-year pro. Ideally, the veterans will guide the prospects on handling the grueling schedule, after going through it multiple times. Players will have to manage their time off the ice carefully if they want to play their best on a nightly basis.
Games to Watch
October 13th vs Toronto – This will be the only time Wolf Pack fans will see the Marlies at home. Last season both clubs met four times as Hartford was 1-3 in the series. Each game featured grit and toughness as it was entertaining to watch.
October 21st @ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton– The first of six meetings against the dominant Penguins. Each game in the season series pushes the Wolf Pack to the brink. Last season, Hartford was embarrassed by the Penguins, getting swept in the season series. The Penguins also feature former Pack players Ryan Haggerty and Tim Erixon.
January 6th vs Syracuse– Hartford will face the Crunch twice in the upcoming season. Syracuse comes off of a Calder Cup Final defeat against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Syracuse plays a rough style which Hartford has had troubles against in the past.
February 7th vs Bridgeport– Hartford’s annual school day game features an in-state rival. The Pack have gone 2-2 since the return of school day games they have played, beginning in 2014.
- The month of October features light travel for the club. They travel to Bridgeport and Springfield which both are under an hour. Wilkes-Barre is about three hours for one game. At the end of the month is the longest haul for two road games. First in Lehigh Valley, then one one in Hershey. That is logical travel since both cities are not far from each other.
- The longest road trip of the season is from February 9th to the 18th as Hartford plays six straight away from home. The trip begins in Syracuse Friday the 9th, followed by a visit to Hershey on the 10th. Then Hartford travels to Charlotte for two contests on the 13th and 14th. The club then returns to Pennsylvania to face Lehigh Valley on the 17th and rounds out the trip the following day in Bridgeport against the Sound Tigers.
- Nine of the team’s last 13 games this season will be on home ice. This is crucial for any team if they are pushing for a playoff spot. Hartford must play well at home if they want to have a chance of making the postseason. Being comfortable in Hartford allows the players to feel relaxed, and makes it tough for the opponent to play in Hartford.
- Hartford plays three straight contests against Charlotte from March 4th to the 10th.
Thoughts on the Schedule
This is one of the best schedules that the league has given Hartford. The entire season is balanced with games at home and away. In previous seasons, Hartford was on the road frequently and at the end of the season, while being home heavy early on. The schedule for this season helps with travel and rest as well. When they go on trips, they go logically. The club travels to cities that are close enough to each other. The Canadian road-trip is logical as well. Not every team has the most logical schedule due to distance and the number of times they play a specific team. The travel is efficient this year. Despite the frequent three in threes, each opponent is close to the next. Players either can rest in Hartford or along the way to another city. The schedule will not have a negative impact on the players. The league has done a great job with it.
October- 10 games (5 home, 5 away)
November- 12 games (6 home, 6 away)
December- 12 games (6 home, 6 away)
January- 12 games (6 home, 6 away)
February- 12 games (4 home, 8 away)
March- 13 games (8 home, 5 away)
April- 5 games (3 home, 2 away)
2017-18 Schedule Matrix
Syracuse 2 (Tampa Bay)
Toronto 2 (Maple Leafs)
Laval 2 (Montreal)
Belleville 2 (Ottawa)
Binghamton 2 (New Jersey)
Utica 4 (Vancouver)
Rochester 4 (Buffalo)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 6 (Pittsburgh)
Hershey 6 (Washington)
Lehigh Valley 6 (Philadelphia)
Charlotte 8 (Carolina)
Bridgeport 10 (Islanders)
Providence 10 (Boston)
Springfield 12 (Florida)