ECHL Realignment, Playoff Format Change Announced


On Tuesday the ECHL announced an ECHL realignment for the 2015-16 season, as well as a change in playoff format for the 2016 playoffs. That will, of course, effect both of the Minnesota Wild’s ECHL affiliates, the Alaska Aces and Quad City Mallards. This comes just one season after the ECHL and CHL merger that brought the Mallards into the ECHL and made a single tier three league.

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Both teams will play in the Western Conference next season with the Aces playing in the West Division against the Colorado Eagles, Idaho Steelheads, Rapid City Rush, and Utah Grizzlies. The Mallards will play in the Midwest Division with the Cincinnati Cyclones, Evansville IceMen, Fort Wayne Komets, and Indy Fuel.

Here’s the complete realignment for the league from the ECHL website:

"Eastern ConferenceNorth DivisionBrampton Beast, Kalamazoo Wings, Toledo Walleye, Wheeling NailersEast DivisionAdirondack, Elmira Jackals, Manchester, Norfolk, Reading RoyalsSouth DivisionFlorida Everblades, Greenville Road Warriors, Gwinnett Gladiators, Orlando Solar Bears, South Carolina StingraysWestern ConferenceMidwest DivisionCincinnati Cyclones, Evansville IceMen, Fort Wayne Komets, Indy Fuel, Quad City MallardsCentral DivisionAllen Americans, Missouri Mavericks, Tulsa Oilers, Wichita ThunderWest DivisionAlaska Aces, Colorado Eagles, Idaho Steelheads, Rapid City Rush, Utah Grizzlies"

And here’s the league’s new playoff format, according to the ECHL announcement.

"The division winners will be seeded 1, 2 and 3 and the next five highest point totals in each conference will qualify for the 2016 Kelly Cup Playoffs. All series in the playoffs will be played in a best-of-seven format with the conference champions meeting in the Kelly Cup Finals to determine a national champion."

This announcement also comes on the heels of the AHL realignment that features four NHL clubs moving their AHL affiliates from the east coast to California in order to have them nearby.

After that announcement, Alaska Aces managing member Terry Parks released a statement assuring fans in Anchorage that the team has no intention of moving away from Alaska, which is admittedly quite a drive from the other ECHL teams.

Here’s that statement from Parks:

"The Alaska Aces recognize a desire of several National Hockey League clubs to align their American Hockey League affiliates with a closer geographic reach on the west coast. In light of this week’s news, affecting the arrangement of two professional hockey leagues, we are making it very clear that our full operational status for the 2015-16 ECHL season remains active and unaffected. A select number of opponents may change, but our objectives, mission and ambitions remain the same in delivering a high standard of quality on-ice entertainment each game night at Sullivan Arena. We’re proud of our tradition built on three Kelly Cup championships and we enjoy the business model that is promoted by the ECHL.To reiterate, we have renewed a three-year agreement with the ECHL, along with 27 other teams in the league, while renewing our lease with Sullivan Arena for five years. We are looking forward to preparing for an exciting 2015-16 ECHL season as a member of an esteemed coast-to-coast league, presenting a fresh approach to our schedule with various new opponents and trips to potentially fill our calendar."