Tony's Take: Week 4
At long last, AHL fans rejoiced on Wednesday when the 2018-19 regular season schedule was released league-wide and for Monsters fans, the reasons for excitement are numerous. Aside from Cleveland’s eastward move to a new conference and the North Division, the wide array of new opponents on the Monsters’ new ledger should be reason enough to start counting the days until October 5th’s home opener at The Q.
For the first time ever, the Monsters will clash with the Belleville Senators, Laval Rocket, and Binghamton Devils in 2018-19, and several familiar foes from years gone by are back in force again – led by the defending Calder Cup Champion Toronto Marlies, a group of teams including the Syracuse Crunch, Rochester Americans, Utica Comets, Charlotte Checkers, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will renew their all-time series against the Monsters this season, and in a rematch of the 2016 Calder Cup Final (the Monsters prevailed in a four-game sweep in case you forgot), Cleveland will also take on the AHL’s most storied franchise, the Hershey Bears, four times this season.
Afraid of the culture shock that comes with a brand-new conference? Not to worry – the Monsters’ schedule also provides the team with the opportunity to maintain their former Central Division rivalries with the Milwaukee Admirals, Rockford IceHogs, Chicago Wolves, and yes, the Grand Rapids Griffins (with one overnight home-and-home with the Griffins looming on December 28th and 29th, presumably for old time’s sake).
We know why fans are excited for the season of change ahead, but how will the Monsters’ new schedule impact the team’s players, coaches, and staff travel-wise? In a word, favorably. Gone are the week-plus road trips to the west coast and with them, the logistical challenges of such lengthy journeys. Instead, Cleveland will enjoy the opportunity to spread their road schedule across more tightly-concentrated Eastern Conference destinations, and will likely rely more on a staple of Eastern Conference life, the bus.
Aside from a whole host of favorable home dates throughout the season (upon which we’ll elaborate once the Monsters’ promotional schedule is released), there are several road tilts on Cleveland’s docket this season that may peak fans’ interest. Perhaps most enticingly, the Monsters will square off vs. their fellow North Division residents, the Rochester Americans, on Wednesday, November 7th, but not in Rochester…Instead the Monsters and Amerks will do battle a bit farther west on I-90 than usual in Buffalo’s KeyBank Center, home to Rochester’s NHL affiliate, the Buffalo Sabres.
Also back this season are a pair of love-em-or-hate-em school day games, on Wednesday, October 24th in Chicago and Wednesday, March 13th in Milwaukee. What’s a school day game? Teams in the AHL and at lower levels have long utilized undesirable mid-week dates as opportunities to invite local students to the rink, resulting in the breaking of many an all-important gameday routine, and oftentimes memorable, fun games played in front of huge, enthusiastic, and slightly higher-pitched crowds.
What are you most excited about regarding the Monsters’ 2018-19 schedule? Tweet me mailbag questions throughout the summer months @TonyBrownPxP using the hashtag #TonysTake. If yours is selected, you’ll be entered for a chance to win cool Monsters prizes!