CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Monsters will open their 11th season in the American Hockey League against the Rockford IceHogs at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday, October 7, the team and league announced Monday.
The Monsters’ full-season schedule will be released on Tuesday, July 11.
The Monsters and IceHogs are rivals within the AHL’s Central Division, which is a part of the Western Conference, and the new regular-season format means the two teams will see plenty of each other throughout the year.
In 2017-2018, teams will play games only within their respective conferences. Over their 76-game schedule, the Monsters will play every team in the Western Conference at least four times, except for the Bakersfield Condors.
The Monsters will play eight games, four home and four away, against their Central Division foes in the Chicago Wolves, defending Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids Griffins, Iowa Wild, Manitoba Moose, Milwaukee Admirals and IceHogs.
Additionally, the Monsters will have two games at home and two away against the Pacific Division teams, including the San Antonio Rampage, San Diego Gulls, San Jose Barracuda, Stockton Heat, Texas Stars, Ontario Reign and Tucson Roadrunners.
One year after a magical 15-2 run through the postseason on the way to the Calder Cup Championship, including a 10-game winning streak that saw them sweep the then-defending champion Ontario Reign in the Western Conference Finals, and then, the Eastern Conference’s best team, the Hershey Bears, the Monsters fell one point short of the 2017 postseason tournament.
Needing the Charlotte Checkers to lose on the road to the Wolves in regulation to clinch the No. 4 spot in the Central Division, the Monsters were left on the outside looking in when despite Chicago scoring two goals late in regulation, the game went into overtime.
Although Charlotte lost to Chicago in overtime, the one point drew them even with the Monsters, and the Checkers held the tiebreaker.
Despite heavy losses of players to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for just the third time in franchise history and having to adjust to a new coaching staff, the Monsters finished the season with 86 points by posting a 39-29-4-4 record.
During a difficult stretch run against teams above them in the standings, including road games at the Wolves, Griffins, Admirals and Wild late in the season, the Monsters posted a 7-2-1-0 record over their final 10 outings.
Although the Monsters were alternating goaltenders on a regular basis because the Blue Jackets were auditioning a backup for eventual Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, they finished with the third-fewest goals allowed, 198, in the Central Division.
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