With just seven teams remaining from what was the ECHL's Western Conference last season -- that group includes the Alaska Aces -- the league has announced divisions for next season, and some tinkering gives the Western Conference 11 teams, eight of which will qualify for the playoffs.
Under the new format, four teams in each of the four divisions will qualify for the Kelly Cup postseason.
The Aces will play in the Pacific Division, which also includes the Ontario Reign, Bakersfield Condors, Stockton Thunder, Idaho Steelheads and Utah Grizzlies. Two of those teams won't make the playoffs, unlike last season when all eight Western Conference teams made the playoffs after a ninth team, the San Francisco Bulls folded in the middle of the season.
The new Midwest Division features the Colorado Eagles, Evansville Icemen, Fort Wayne Komets, Kalamazoo Wings and expansion Indy Fuel -- one of those teams will not make the playoffs.
The new divisional format brings some equality to qualifying for the playoffs -- the Eastern Conference now has 11 teams like the Western, and three won't make the postseason.
For a full rundown of the divisions, and some rules tweaks, check out the ECHL's news release here.
More on the Aces' 2014-15 schedule and the new format later today at adn.com and in Wednesday's dead-trees edition of the ADN.
By DOYLE WOODY, adn.com