by JIM DAVIS (HockeyYall.com) on AUGUST 18, 2010
Carving out just the right schedule was more complicated than usual this off-season for Arkansas, which won the SECHC championship last season and ascended to the ACHA DIII National Tournament for the first time.
Obviously, the schedule had to be challenging enough so that if the Razorbacks play well, they can duplicate, or even improve on, their No. 4 final regular-season ranking in 2009-10.
But there were a handful of other concerns on the table when the coaching staff and club management began the process of lining up games: an early test for the Razorbacks followed by sufficient practice time for teaching; more home games leading into the postseason; time off so the players could prepare for first-semester final exams; home games on weekends when the football Hogs are playing in Fayetteville; strengthening the club’s relationship with local youth hockey programs; and supporting the Susan B. Komen Fight for the Cure (for breast cancer).
From the looks of their 30-game slate, the Razorbacks have accomplished what they set out to do. Their schedule includes 13 games with D2 teams, four against clubs that reached the DIII South Regional last February and a first-ever match-up with Florida Gulf Coast, a national tournament semifinalist in 2010. Other first-time opponents are Davenport, Nebraska, North Texas and Texas A & M.
“We learned the hard way last year against Missouri State D2 that we needed to be battle-tested earlier in the season,” said Brian Gallini, who will serve as the Razorbacks’ co-coach with Rick Desjardins. “We suffered several key injuries in that two-game set that left us worn down for nationals and the postseason more generally.
“Rather than wait to until the end of the season to find out what we’re capable of, this season’s schedule puts us on the ice against top-ranked opponents early and often throughout the season.”
The Hogs will open the season and raise their SECHC championship banner Sept. 10, when they host D2 Kansas in the first of back-to-back games. The next evening will be Youth League Night.
After a three-week break, the Razorbacks will host Nebraska for a weekend set, with the first game a fundraiser for the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure.
“Last year, we did not have the benefit of a training camp or the opportunity to add more practices early in the season,” said Gallini. “This year, in the first month, for example, we’ll practice approximately 16 times but only play two games. The combination of extra practices and two early games will ideally enable us to better prepare for the heart of our first semester.”
All told, eight games are at home (six of them before Dec. 1) and two more will be held in Little Rock on a weekend the Razorbacks football team meets Louisiana State there.
Arkansas will play in two showcases and possibly a third: the two-year-old Dallas Silver Sticks and the the first SECHC Atlanta Showcase in January. The other one would be in Tennessee and may involve the Tennessee Ice Vols and two non-SECHC clubs in addition to the Razorbacks. These events could account for seven of the 11 games Arkansas will play against seven conference opponents.
As it did in 2009-10, Arkansas will again follow the NHL Dallas Stars onto the American Airlines Center ice. On Jan. 14, the Razorbacks will face Texas A & M in Dallas in the first game of a weekend doubleheader.