City: Allen, Texas
Arena: Allen Event Center (6,135)
Coach: Dwight Mullins
Last season: 42-17-5
Notes: Forward Bruce Graham returns after leading the Americans in goals (31) and points (79) last season. Dangerous forward Nino Musitelli had 23 goals and 63 points last season. Goaltender Chris Whitley was 31-8-4 with a 2.60 GAA and .914 save percentage. Allen is an affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars.
City: Prescott Valley, Ariz.
Arena: Tim’s Toyota Center (4,810)
Coach: Marco Pietroniro
Last season: 24-34-6
Notes: Forward Mark Kolanos returns to Arizona after a year away. He should be a point-per-game player. Kevin Jarman, a forward, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2003. Torren Delforte had 18 goals and 41 points in 51 games last season.
City: Bloomington, Ill.
Arena: U.S. Cellular Coliseum (6,700)
Coach: Jason Christie
Last season: 31-34-11 in IHL
Notes: After coach Jarrod Skalde bolted for Cincinnati of the ECHL, the PrairieThunder hit a home run with Christie, who had seven winning seasons in eight years with Peoria of the ECHL. Forward John Snowden had 58 points in 74 IHL games last season with Dayton and Bloomington. Former Komet Matt Woodard is a promising young defenseman. Jamie Lovell, coming off a stint with Port Huron of the IHL, should be one of the top blue-liners in the CHL.
City: Bossier City, La.
Arena: CenturyTel Center (7,418)
Website: www.mudbugshockey.com Coach: Scott Muscott
Last season: 38-22-4
Notes: Forwards Shawn Limpright and Joe Blaznek are prolific – they combined for 41 goals and 103 points last season – and the Mudbugs opted to return the nucleus of last season’s successful squad. Goaltender John DeCaro was 24-14-1 with a 2.73 GAA and .912 save percentage. Defenseman Dave Pszenyczny is a tough customer – he had 134 penalty minutes last season.
City: Loveland, Colo.
Arena: Budweiser Event Center (5,289)
Coach: Chris Stewart
Last season: 42-15-7
Notes: The Eagles were the highest draw in the CHL, averaging a sellout crowd, thanks in part to having the CHL’s leading scorer, Kevin Ulanski, who tallied 34 goals and 109 points. That was eight points more than anyone else in the league. Riley Nelson was third in the CHL in scoring with 31 goals and 94 points. Goaltender Andrew Penner was 22-8-4 with a 2.98 GAA and .902 save percentage, but he split time.
City: Dayton, Ohio
Arena: Hara Arena (5,543)
Coach: Brian Gratz
Last season: 25-46-5 in IHL
Notes: Gratz, a Fort Wayne native and former Komets goalie, gets his first shot at coaching at the AA level, and it’s a crucial season for hockey to survive in the Dayton market. Gratz was 31-1-0 with Indiana of the Mid-Atlantic Hockey League in 2007-08. Greg Labenski, 32, has been one of the best defensemen at this level for years. He had five goals and 27 points last season for the Gems. Forward Chris Lipsett had 28 goals and 65 points last season for Quad City.
Arena: Swonder Ice Arena (1,600)
Coach: Rich Kromm
Last season: Expansion team
Notes: The Icemen were a part of the lower-level All-American Hockey League last season but assumed some of the infrastructure of the now-defunct IHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks, where Kromm coached. The Icemen have brought in high-scoring forwards Nick Lindberg, John DiPace and Jeff Nelson, plus former NHL and Komets defenseman Mario Larocque. A new arena is being built in Evansville, opening in 2011, but the CHL, ECHL and junior-level United States Hockey League are all vying to be the hockey tenant, so the Icemen could have a short life.
Fort Wayne Komets
City: Fort Wayne
Arena: Memorial Coliseum (10,480)
Coach: Al Sims
Last season: 50-21-5 in IHL
Notes: Coming off three straight championships in the IHL, the Komets brought back 11 players from last season. And center Mathieu Curadeau, goaltender Kevin Reiter and forward Olivier Legault are back for second stints with the team. Goaltender Nick Boucher was in net for all three Turner Cup wins. The Komets signed forwards Brandon Naurato and Derek Patrosso, prolific scorers with Port Huron last season, and former Flint defenseman Craig Cescon, to give them more speed and physicality. The Komets are an affiliate of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Sims, a former player and coach in the NHL, has won four championships with the Komets dating to 1993.
City: Laredo, Texas
Arena: Laredo Energy Arena (6,500)
Website: www.laredobucks.net Coach: Terry Ruskowski
Last season: 32-20-12
Notes: Jeff Bes is one of the CHL’s top playmakers. He had 19 goals and 75 points last season. But the Bucks parted ways with almost all of their forwards from last season, while bringing back four defensemen – Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel, Serge Dube, Ryan Lehr and Jarred Mohr – from last season’s team that allowed 3.36 goals per game. Pier-Olivier Pelletier is a promising goaltender, who was 9-4-3 with a 2.88 GAA and a .915 save percentage last season.
City: Southaven, Miss.
Arena: DeSoto Civic Center (8,400)
Coach: Kevin Kaminski
Last season: 33-24-7
Notes: Kaminski, otherwise known as Killer, is a former Komets and NHL tough guy. He also coached against Fort Wayne in the United Hockey League with Missouri. Forward Louis Dupont had 23 goals and 63 points last season. Anthony Battaglia is solid; he had 45 points with Amarillo. Watch defenseman Nathan Lutz. In net, the RiverKings have Larry Sterling, the former Port Huron goalie that Fort Wayne fans love to hate.
City: Independence, Mo.
Arena: Independence Events Center (5,800)
Coach: Scott Hillman
Last season: 31-27-6
Notes: Rookie goaltender Zane Kalemba was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in NCAA hockey, while with Princeton. The Mavericks also have Rob Nolan, who guided the Flint Generals to the IHL finals last season before losing to Fort Wayne. Former Port Huron forward Tab Lardner, who has five seasons with 20 or more goals, will add some offense. Carlyle Lewis racked up 252 penalty minutes last season.
City: Odessa, Texas
Arena: Ector County Coliseum (5,131)
Coach: Paul Gillis
Last season: 48-11-5
Notes: The Jackalopes had the best record in the regular season during 2009-10, led by forward Sebastien Thinel, who tallied 22 goals and 97 points last season. Forward Jeff Pierce had 31 goals and 62 points last season. Forward Darryl Bootland is a former NHL player with Detroit and the New York Islanders. Goaltender Joel Martin was 27-6-2 with a 2.50 GAA and .918 save percentage. Odessa is an affiliate of the Islanders.
Quad City Mallards
City: Moline, Ill.
Arena: i wireless Center (9,300)
Coach: Frank Anzalone
Last season: 29-35-12 in IHL
Notes: Left wing Patrick Levesque was one of the few bright spots for Anzalone in the Mallards’ inaugural 2009-10 season. He totaled 30 goals and 67 points. Zach Pearson had 19 goals and 48 points for Bloomington. Former Rockford goalie Michel Robinson is with the Mallards, after playing 43 games in England last season. Shane Lovdahl is a competent two-way defenseman who had three goals and 24 points as a rookie.
Rapid City Rush
City: Rapid City, S.D.
Arena: Rushmore Plaza Civic Center (5,119)
Website: www.rapidcityrush.com Coach: Joe Ferras
Last season: 43-14-7
Notes: The defending champions of the CHL have a lot of turnover from last season. Forward Scott Wray led the Rush in goals (31) and was second in points (78) last season. Center Brendan Hodge totaled 23 goals and 57 points. Vladimir Hartinger scored a point per game for New Mexico in 2007-08. Goaltender Danny Battochio was 28-5-4 with a 2.60 GAA and .917 save percentage last season.
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees
City: Hidalgo, Texas
Arena: State Farm Arena (5,500)
Coach: Chris Brooks
Last season: 27-27-10
Notes: The Killer Bees have a lot of playmakers – Sean Muncy had 33 assists last season, Zak McClellan had 26, and Aaron Lee had 23 – but do they have the finishers? Defenseman Rob Cowan was OK with Port Huron last season, tallying one goal and nine points. Matt Smyth is another serviceable blue-liner; he was plus-21 last season with Corpus Christi.
City: North Richland Hills, Texas
Arena: NYTEX Sports Centre (2,400)
Coach: Dan Wildfong
Last season: 32-25-7
Notes: Forward Chad Woollard is a dynamic scorer, who had 40 goals and 64 points last season for now-defunct Corpus Christi. Center Jason Deitsch had 45 points in 51 games with Texas. Center Ryan McLeod totaled 21 goals and 58 points with Colorado last season. They love Steven Later in the CHL – he had 12 goals, 25 points and 122 penalty minutes for Corpus Christi – but he was up and down in the IHL.
City: Tulsa, Okla.
Arena: BOK Center (17,096)
Website: www.tulsaoilers.com Coach: Bruce Ramsay
Last season: 28-29-7
Notes: Ramsay is a former player/assistant coach with the Komets. He also coached Port Huron and Muskegon in the UHL/IHL. Goaltender Tyler Sims is the son of Komets coach Al Sims. Tyler also spent some time on the Komets’ roster. Derek Eastman, a defenseman, racked up 45 points last season. Right wing Dan Reidel had 18 goals and 41 points last season. The Oilers are an affiliate of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.
City: Wichita, Kan.
Arena: Intrust Bank Center (15,000)
Coach: Kevin McClelland
Last season: 9-50-5
Notes: After having the CHL’s worst record last season, the Thunder hired McClelland, who won four Stanley Cups as a player and was the CHL’s Coach of the Year with Memphis is 2007. His team should score plenty. Jesse Bennefield tallied 59 goals and 130 points over the last two seasons with Rio Grande Valley. Brent Cullaton normally scores more than a point per game. Lance Galbraith, a former Fort Wayne player, is feisty as they come. And Jason Goulet will be a formidable enforcer at the blue line.
– Justin A. Cohn,
The Journal Gazette