Walleye's Stephon Thorne (13) moves the puck against South Carolina's Steve Spinell (6). BLADE
The Toledo Walleye will remain in the ECHL North Division this upcoming season, but the team will have three new opponents in its division.
The ECHL's board of governors on Tuesday announced a divisional realignment for the 2014-15 season.
Toledo will stay in the North Division of the Eastern Conference. Elmira, Reading, and Wheeling will join the Walleye along with fellow current member Cincinnati.
Toledo's former North Division rivals Kalamazoo, Fort Wayne, and Evansville have been moved to the Western Conference. Those three teams are now in the Midwest Division along with Colorado and the expansion franchise in Indianapolis.
All team’s schedules, which were announced earlier this month, will not change. There are no additional trips to the new division foes in Wheeling, Elmira, and Reading. Those three teams had previously made up the Atlantic Division.
The bulk of the Walleye's games will be against former North Division rivals. Toledo plays Kalamazoo 13 times with seven at home. The Walleye play Fort Wayne nine times with three at Huntington Center.
Toledo will play Cincinnati and Wheeling seven times. The Walleye will play Reading five times, including three on the road.
They will play Elmira in six games, including four on the road.
Toledo's first road game of the year is on Oct. 24 at the Indianapolis Fuel.
The format for the 2015 Kelly Cup playoffs also was announced. The top four teams in each division during the regular season will qualify for the postseason. All four rounds of the playoffs will be played in a best-of-seven format.
The first two rounds of the playoffs will be played entirely within the division. Under the new playoff format, only one team from Toledo's new five-team division will not make the playoffs. Also, the Walleye would not meet Kalamazoo, Fort Wayne, Evansville, or Indianapolis until the Kelly Cup finals.
ECHL officials said the realignment would create more equity. Last year, all eight teams in the Western Conference qualified for the playoffs. Five teams in the 13-team Eastern Conference did not make the playoffs, including the Walleye.
“This would create a more equitable opportunity for all teams to qualify for a playoff position,” the league stated.
The league also announced a rule change. The ECHL will be implementing the hybrid-icing system, which allows the linesman to blow the play dead and rule an automatic icing.
The call is made only if the linesman determines that the puck will cross the goal line and the defending player is not behind in the race to the faceoff dots in his defensive zone. The ensuing faceoff would go to the far end of the ice just as it did with icings called in the ECHL in the past. The rule follows the same one used in the NHL.
NEW ECHL DIVISIONS
The ECHL conference and divisional alignments for the 2014-15 season:
■ Cincinnati, Elmira, Reading, Toledo, Wheeling
■ Florida, Greenville, Gwinnett, Orlando, South Carolina
■ Colorado, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Kalamazoo
■ Alaska, Bakersfield, Idaho, Ontario, Stockton, Utah