New rivals for Steelheads as ECHL changes division alignment, playoff format

The Idaho Steelheads, who played hockey last season in the five-team West Division, will compete in the newly named seven-team Mountain Division. All members of the West Division — Colorado, Utah, Rapid City, Alaska and Idaho — will be joined by the two-time defending champion Allen Americans and Missouri Mavericks.

The other three divisions are as follows:

Central: Fort Wayne, Indy, Kalamazoo, Quad City, Toledo, Tulsa and Wichita

North: Adirondack, Brampton, Elmira, Manchester, Reading, Wheeling

South: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Florida, Greenville Norfolk, Atlanta, Orlando, South Carolina

With the new alignment, the league will no longer utilize a playoff format based on the top eight seeds of each conference. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be held within each of the four new divisions, with the top four teams in each division making the postseason. The winner of the Mountain Division will face the winner of the Central Division in the Western Conference Final, while the North Division winner battles the South Division winner in the Eastern Conference Final. Those winners will play for the Kelly Cup.

The Steelheads will play 53 of their 72 regular-season games this season against Mountain Division opponents. The season begins Oct. 14.