Lloydminster Bobcat fans will be seeing more from Alberta Junior Hockey League teams next season due to a new full interlock schedule. The league’s Board of Governors approved the decision on November 23rd during its semi-annual meeting.
The new interlock schedule will have 15 AJHL teams playing four games versus each league opponent. Bobcats General Manager Nigel Dube says the new schedule will offer more of a league-wide rivalry.
“When you look at it like a, Brooks Bandits, they come once in January and we go down there once in October. There is no real rivalry there, it’s more like a see you once and then see you again; you might see a whole different team.”
The schedule will include two games at the annual AJHL Showcase, which totals in 58 games during the 2020-2021 season. The following season will follow the same concept with 16 teams, for a total of 60 games.
Dube believes the change will spice things up for fans of the league as both the north and south divisions play a different type of hockey. He says the schedule change will create more parity in the league.
“For our players, we look for that to create more rivals and also get to different areas and different styles of hockey that coaches have.”
The AJHL will begin implementing hybrid icing next season following the NHL’s rule change in 2013. The rule allows the linesmen to call icing when they believe the puck will pass the goal line, and that the defending player will be the first to reach the puck.
The league has also decided to allow a Side-of-Ice Face-Off choice after icing and at the beginning of powerplays next season. The non-offending team after an icing call or the team going into the powerplay will be able to choose which side of the ice to take the face-off.
“It’s just something we need to be aware of too. We have both of our assistant coaches right now tracking our face-offs during games so we know the hot hands. So, you can have that option. It’s always better when you start with the puck rather than trying to get it back.”
The Lloydminster Bobcats host the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in Onion Lake on December 6th.