The Winnipeg ICE 2021 schedule has finally been released, meaning it’s open season for analysis.
Now, a lot of things one usually looks for in a schedule aren’t there this year. The season only consists of 24 games, not 68, taking place over six weeks, not six months. Before the puck drops on March 13, a look ahead can give a clue of what’s to come for the ICE this season.
It’s a Sprint, Not a Marathon
The preseason de-rusting period doesn’t exist this season, so teams will have to polish up fast with points on the line.
There are only 48 points available for teams to nab this year. That’s the smallest margin for error the WHL has ever seen. In 11 days, the ICE will already be a quarter way through the season.
Last year through their first 12 games, the Winnipeg ICE were 6-5-1. That would be half of the season this year, and that record wouldn’t be very impressive with all the talent this team has. That record would only net them 13 points, hardly a good building block.
Last year’s early-season games also featured numerous blowouts, with the ICE featuring both as winners and losers of those games. Even in-game, one team getting out to a faster start meant disaster for the other squad. Time is not a luxury this year.
The condensed schedule will affect everything – from the importance of winning and losing streaks to what injuries can be considered season-enders. The best teams in the WHL this year will have two things: a swift start and a short memory. In this race to the finish, there’s no time for teams to look back.
The Actual Schedule
The ICE faces off against their provincial rivals, the Brandon Wheat Kings, on Saturday, March 13. After that, they’ll play 23 more games, ending with a bout against the bubble hosting Regina Pats on April 27.
Something somewhat surprising in the schedule is the lack of NHL-type series. The ICE never faces the same opponent back-to-back. One may think that to limit any potential COVID exposure, series or at least back-to-backs would be the way to go. However, with the players in a contained bubble, any outbreak would likely spread before being detected, so the potential impact of only playing one team at a time is greatly minimized.
Speaking of back-to-backs, the ICE has six sets this year. That means back-to-backs make up half the season. Being able to operate on limited rest will be key to a winning season. Playing 24 games in 45 days is going to take a heavy toll physically and mentally. The work of the team staff, from coaches to trainers, to help keep the guys healthy and happy will go a long way towards making the shortened season successful for the Winnipeg ICE.
Where to Watch
Unfortunately, there will be no in-person attendance this season. Hardly surprising, but it still stinks.
This year, fans will have to watch from home. Listening in on CFRW 1290 AM with Mitch Peacock is the way to go for radio, while CHL TV will give you the best place to watch the games on whatever device you choose at a reasonable rate (you can also use this one to follow along with the rest of the WHL.)
It’s also important to note all games start at either five or nine p.m. CST, except for the season opener which starts at eight.
The full Winnipeg ICE schedule can be found here.