The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will have a new division rival close to home for the 2014-2015 season. The American Hockey League’s Board of Governors announced on Wednesday that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, formerly the Adirondack Phantoms, will join the East Division.
The new alignment format put the Penguins with Lehigh Valley, Hershey, Binghamton and Norfolk in the East Division. The Syracuse Crunch moves from the East Division to the Northeast Division.
The Phantoms move from Glens Falls, N.Y. to Allentown where they will play the upcoming season at the PPL Center. They are the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliate.
Also this week, the Phantoms announced they will open their inaugural season on home ice on Friday, Oct. 17. An opponent has not yet been named and the AHL is still finalizing the 2014-15 preseason and regular-season schedules.
The addition of the Phantoms to the East Division, and their move to Allentown, places three Pennsylvania teams together in the same division all within approximately an hour of each other. Add in another division foe - the Binghamton Senators, and the Penguins are in the unique position of being within 90 miles of three of their division opponent.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins CEO Jeff Barrett said the addition of another Pennsylvania team to the division will benefit fans from both teams.
“For us it’s terrific. The Phantoms and Hershey have been two of our biggest rivalries, plus there’s the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh rivalry which really builds this,” Barrett said. “The fact that both teams are so close, along with the rivalry, will spark a lot of interest in those contests.”
In other moves, Adirondack has become the AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames and has moved from the West Division to the North Division; Lake Erie moves from the North to the Midwest Division; and Iowa moves from the Midwest to the West Division.
The Board of Governors also announced the 2014-15 playoff format will remain unchanged. Eight teams from each conference will qualify for the postseason in a conference format, with the three division winners earning the top three seeds. The first round of the playoffs will remain best-of-five and the final three rounds will remain best-of-seven.