BLOOMINGTON, Ill — The Central Illinois Flying Aces announced on Friday its regular schedule for the 2018-19 United States Hockey League campaign, the team’s fifth season in the USHL and second under the Flying Aces identity.
Central Illinois will drop the puck on the home season on Saturday, Oct. 6 against the Waterloo Black Hawks at Grossinger Motors Arena in downtown Bloomington. The Flying Aces also conclude the season on home ice with a rivalry matchup against the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders on Saturday, April 13.
Including the home opener, the Flying Aces will play six of their eight October games on home ice, with at least one home game each weekend of October.
“The season can’t come soon enough,” Flying Aces Head Coach and General Manager Mike Watt said. “We’ve put a lot of work in this offseason, and with our biggest USHL Draft in team history, the six first-rounders between Phase I and II, our whole staff is excited to showcase this team to our fans right away.”
The USHL regular season will begin a week earlier this year, as each team will take part in the 2018 USHL Fall Classic in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, from Sept. 27-30. Unlike years past where the USHL Fall Classic games were reserved for the preseason, this year’s event will be included in the regular season, extending the league schedule from 60 to 62 games. The Flying Aces’ games and opponents for the 2018 USHL Fall Classic will be announced in the coming days.
One of the Flying Aces’ biggest schedule highlights this year is the bulk of Saturday night home games. Central Illinois will play 14 of its 30 home games on Saturday nights, including three Saturday night home games each in the months of October, November and March.
October, November and March are also the three busiest home months of the campaign, as the Flying Aces play six home games apiece in October and November and five times at Grossinger Motors Arena in March, the final full month of the regular season. However, unlike prior seasons, the home schedule remains balanced throughout the other months. Central Illinois will play four home games in December, January and February. April, the final month of the campaign, will feature one home game and three road tilts.
Fans will have the opportunity to see plenty of home rivalry games against the Flying Aces’ Eastern Conference foes this year, including four home tilts against the Chicago Steel, the Aces’ I-55 rival. The four home matchups against Chicago are the most home contests against the Steel in one season in team history.
Central Illinois also faces off against the Muskegon Lumberjacks and Team USA four times each, tied for the most home matchups against any opponent, including the Steel. For the first time in two seasons, the Flying Aces will host Team USA (U18), which will boast around 15-20 2019 NHL Draft picks on its roster this year, including the potential No. 1 overall pick, Jack Hughes. Central Illinois takes on the U18s on Friday, Nov. 23 and Saturday, Jan. 19. The two teams will go head to head on eight occasions in the 2018-19 season, as Team USA will be Central Illinois’ most frequent opponent.
The bulk of the Flying Aces’ schedule is against Eastern Conference teams. Central Illinois will play 46 tilts against teams in the Eastern Conference, including Eastern Conference matchups for 23 of its 30 home games. The Flying Aces will see each Eastern Conference squad a minimum of three times, with Team USA (8 games), Chicago (7 games), Muskegon (7 games), and the Green Bay Gamblers (7 games) being the most played opponents.
The Flying Aces will take on Western Conference teams on 14 occasions, excluding the to-be-announced opponents for the 2018 USHL Fall Classic. Central Illinois will host the Omaha Lancers, Sioux City Musketeers, Tri-City Storm and Waterloo and will play road games against the Des Moines Buccaneers, Fargo Force, Lincoln Stars, and Sioux Falls Stampede. The longest road trip of the year in terms of distance will be the visit to the Force, the reigning Clark Cup Champions, on March 22-23. Central Illinois will play each Western Conference team twice.
All of the Flying Aces’ Friday and Saturday home contests will begin at 7:07 p.m. at Grossinger Motors Arena, while the six Sunday games will get underway at 4:07 p.m. The Flying Aces’ lone weekday home game on Thursday, Feb. 21 against Muskegon, which will be Education Day for local schools, will start at 11:07 a.m.
With the regular season schedule now set for the 2018-19 campaign, the Flying Aces will release the full promotional schedule and preseason schedule in the coming weeks.
Season tickets and Mini Plans for the 2018-19 season are on sale now. For tickets or more information, call the Flying Aces at 309-434-2980 or visit www.flyingaceshockey.com.
Known as the Bloomington Thunder from 2014-17, the newly-rebranded Central Illinois Flying Aces are a member of the top junior hockey league in the United States, the United States Hockey League (USHL). The only Tier I junior hockey league in the country, the USHL has become renowned for developing the next stars of both Division I college hockey and the NHL. At the start of the 2017-18 season, there were 128 active USHL alumni on NHL rosters, with at least one USHL alumnus playing for each of the 31 teams. In total, there have been 253 USHL players who have gone onto NHL careers, including Patrick Sharp, David Backes, Johnny Gaudreau, and Joe Pavelski, among others. The players in the USHL range in age from 16-20 years old, 95 percent of whom will go on to play college hockey at the Division I level. For more information, visit flyingaceshockey.com or ushl.com or download the USHL Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.