The ECHL announced Monday it has returned to the four-division alignment it used in 2014-15, with the Indy Fuel placed in the eight-team Central Division of the Western Conference.
Playoff spots will be determined within the division – with the first and fourth-place teams in each division playing each other in the first round, as well as the second and third-place teams. The second round of the playoffs will be the division finals, with the winners of each divisional playoff meeting in the conference finals, and then the conference champs playing in the Kelly Cup Finals.
The move comes after the ECHL used a six-division setup and a conference-based playoff system – where the top eight teams in each of the conferences made the playoffs, with the three division winners getting the top three seeds, similar to the system used in the NHL from 1994-2013. The league used that setup for one year, before reverting to the four-division system.
One notable move is that Cincinnati – the Fuel’s closest geographic rival – will move to the Eastern Conference, while Kalamazoo and Toledo will move to the Western Conference. The Fuel and Cyclones are scheduled to play each other 12 times this season, the most of any of Indy’s opponents.
The Fuel will play in the Central Division with the Fort Wayne Komets, Kalamazoo Wings, Quad City Mallards, Toledo Walleye, Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder.
Indy is scheduled to play 33 games within the division, including 10 games against Quad City. The Fuel will also play nine games against Fort Wayne, five against Toledo, four each against Tulsa and Kalamazoo and just one against Wichita – which will not visit the Indiana Farmers Coliseum this season.
Indy will play 13 games against the Western Conference’s Mountain Division – six against the Allen Americans. The Fuel will play the remainder of their schedule – 26 games – against Eastern Conference teams. Nine games will be against North Division teams – five of those against Brampton. Seventeen will be against South Division teams, 12 against Cincinnati.
The ECHL will feature 27 teams this season, with seven teams in all divisions except the North, which has six. Worcester, which is slated to join the ECHL in 2017-18, would geographically slot into the North Division, if this alignment is maintained beyond this season.
2016-17 ECHL divisional alignment
- Central Division: Indy Fuel, Fort Wayne Komets, Kalamazoo Wings, Quad City Mallards, Toledo Walleye, Tulsa Oilers, Wichita Thunder
- Mountain Division: Alaska Aces, Allen Americans, Colorado Eagles, Idaho Steelheads, Missouri Mavericks, Rapid City Rush, Utah Grizzlies
- North Division: Adirondack Thunder, Brampton Beast, Elmira Jackals, Manchester Monarchs, Reading Royals, Wheeling Nailers
- South Division: Atlanta Gladiators, Cincinnati Cyclones, Florida Everblades, Greenville Swamp Rabbits, Norfolk Admirals, Orlando Solar Bears, South Carolina Stingrays