CHL’s 16th Season Gets Underway Tonight!
The Central Hockey League launches its 16th season (The Year of the Fan) tonight with eight games on the calendar. In all, there will be 544 regular season games concluding on Saturday, March 22nd. Tonight 16 of the 17 CHL teams are in action with just Wichita idle (the Thunder open at home tomorrow night versus the Oklahoma City Blazers).
Both defending conference champions begin on the road with Southern Conference Champion Laredo at New Mexico and the defending President’s Cup Champion Colorado Eagles at Arizona. The Eagles do not open at home until Wednesday, October 24th versus Tulsa.
The Youngstown SteelHounds will get used to the road to start the season as they play their first 14 games away from home (the longest road trip for any CHL team this season). The Hounds do not open at the Chevrolet Centre until Friday, November 23rd versus the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs.
The 2007-08 regular season features two head coaches making their coaching debuts with Dan Wildfong in Texas and Randy Murphy in New Mexico. Wildfong will guide the Texas Brahmas when they travel to Austin and Murphy and his New Mexico Scorpions will open versus the Laredo Bucks at the Santa Ana Star Center. Paul Gillis of Odessa will be coaching his first CHL game tonight but the veteran bench boss brings a career record of 463-324-25 to the Jackalopes.
Tonight also is the launch of the CHL Network. Fans can watch CHL action for FREE by downloading the CHL Network player at www.centralhockeyleague.com.
Tonight’s Games and Storylines:
Youngstown @ Oklahoma City, 7:35 PM
-Youngstown begins a 14-game road trip in Oklahoma City and looks to see what life is like post-Jeff Christian. The Hounds dealt the CHL’s MVP in the off-season to the Tulsa Oilers. Chris Richards takes over as the player/assistant coach replacing Christian. The Blazers are led by Doug Sauter who carries with him a 477-243-70 career mark.
Colorado @ Arizona, 7:05 PM
-The Eagles begin their defense of the President’s cup with two games in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Colorado returns 13 players from their cup winning team to their active roster including the duo of Riley Nelson and the CHL Playoff MVP Greg Pankewicz. Arizona builds off a strong inaugural season that saw them qualify for the post-season. The Sundogs new affiliation with the Phoenix Coyotes has paid dividends as four Coyote prospects (David Schlemko, Tyler Redenbach, Alex Leavitt and Olivier Latendresse) will all be in uniform tonight.
Laredo @ New Mexico, 7:15 PM
-The Laredo Bucks will look to begin the journey to another incredible run that has seen them go to the CHL Finals four straight years, winning twice. The Bucks return key players such as Serge Dube, Jeff Bes and James Hiebert and look to be the favorite in the Southern Conference again. The Scorpions are led by first-year head coach Randy Murphy. The former Scorpion player brings in a veteran crew that is anchored by goaltender Mike Minard who has 168 AHL/IHL games under his belt.
Tulsa @ Amarillo, 7:05 PM
-The Oilers stole the off-season spotlight with the trade that brought CHL MVP Jeff Christian and his 116 points to the team. They also added veteran goaltender Kevin St. Pierre who has 184 wins and 27 shutouts over the past five seasons. Amarillo’s Jim Wiley made the post-season last year and brings back the core group of players that were generally considered the hardest workers in the CHL last season.
Texas @ Austin, 7:38 PM
-The bitter in-state rivals renew acquaintances after the Brahmas did not play last year. Austin was 7-1 versus the Brahmas during the 2005-06 season. Texas is led by first-year head coach Dan Wildfong who retired from playing with the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs over the past eight seasons. He brought several familiar faces with him to Texas including Blair Manning, Craig Minard, David Cacciola and Scott Sheppard (all former Mudbugs). Austin looks like a rough bunch after the pre-season and has a dynamic goaltending duo in Miroslav Kopriva and Miguel Beaudry.
Bossier-Shreveport @ Mississippi, 7:05 PM
-The RiverKings open at home with the name Mississippi in front of them for the first time. The team held a fan vote during the off-season and changed it’s name to the state in which they play (the RiverKings play in Southaven, Mississippi just outside the city of Memphis and state of Tennessee). CHL Coach of the Year Kevin McClelland brings back many returning players and has added sniper Chad Woollard to the mix (35 goals in four of the last five seasons). The Mudbugs bring back the CHL’s Outstanding Goaltender John DeCaro and a veteran cast. Bossier-Shreveport finished a great regular season run last year as the Governors’ Cup Champs (regular season). The Mudbugs went 34-5-2 in their last 41 games.
Rocky Mountain @ Odessa, 7:05 PM
-The Rocky Mountain Rage looks like the most improved team in the CHL with former all-stars Brent Cullaton, Tyler Butler, Scott Reid, Simon Watson and Scott Wray added to the mix. Cullaton could be the real catch as he is a prolific scorer that put up 75 points with Laredo several seasons ago. Odessa returns the dynamic duo of Sebastien Thinel and Dominic Leveille after they both played in Europe last season. The duo combined for 174 points during the 2005-06 season with the Jacks.
Corpus Christi @ Rio Grande Valley, 7:35 PM
-These two rivals won’t take long to get re-acquainted. Corpus looks to build off a great second-half turn around last season led by Justin Quenneville. To compliment the all-star, they have added another in Joe Blaznek (acquired from Wichita in the off-season). Blaznek has totaled 249 points over the past four seasons with the Thunder. Rio Grande Valley brought back veterans Rob Voltera and Dennis Maxwell and have added veteran goaltender David Lemanowicz who was 18-5-3 with Laredo two seasons ago.