Nailers Open at Home Against Rival Jackals

WHEELING – With Wednesday’s release of the 2013-14 ECHL schedule, Wheeling Nailers fans can begin to clear their calendars for the upcoming hockey season. It won’t take much effort because weekends and holidays are going to be pretty filled.

Coming off their third consecutive above-.500 finish, the Nailers begin this season on home ice at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, against arguably their biggest rival, the Elmira Jackals.

All told, 29 of the Nailers’ 36 home dates will be played on either weekends or holidays. Saturday is the most frequent home date with 13 such contests scheduled. There will be 10 on Fridays and five on Sundays, which will begin at 3 p.m. this season.

In addition, four games will take place on Wednesday, three on Thursdays and just one Tuesday, a 6 p.m. start against defending Kelly Cup champion Reading at WesBanco Arena, on New Year’s Eve.

“This is a very fan-friendly schedule,” Wheeling vice president of business operations Craig Bommer said. “We are very excited to get the season kicked off in October.”

Fans will get to see plenty of the team’s chief rivals as 52 of 72 regular-season games are against Elmira (seven home, eight away), Reading (seven home, eight away), Cincinnati (six home, six away) and Toledo (six home, four away). Wheeling will play all 12 Eastern Conference teams at least once – Evansville (three home, one away), Fort Wayne (one home, three away), Kalamazoo (two home, one away), Greenville (one home, two away), Florida (two home), Gwinnett (two away), Orlando (one home) and South Carolina (one away).

Wheeling will have a record December in which it will not play a road game from Nov. 30-Dec. 21, a span of 27 days that includes nine contests at The Bank. The longest road trip of the season is six games from Jan. 12-25, with two against the Walleye, two at Greenville, and one each at Gwinnett and Cincinnati.

The busiest month of the season will be November when the Nailers play 15 times, nine of which come on the road. That’s followed by a month in which Wheeling will play nine home games and just two away from home.

February, when the Nailers generally see a lot of the road, will feature 12 games. Four of those, however, will be at home for the first time since the 2009-2010 season.

Wheeling finishes the season with 10 of its final 17 on home ice, the last two coming at Cincinnati.

The Nailers have competed in the Atlantic Division the last couple of years, but with Trenton ceasing operations this spring, its yet to be determined if the Eastern Conference will stay status quo. The topic as well as many others will be discussed, and possibly voted upon, at next week’s league meetings in Las Vegas.