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Komets, IHL rivals land in CHL’s North

– So now the Fort Wayne Komets can program Rapid City, S.D., into the GPS.

Also Evansville, Wichita, Kan., Windsor, Colo., and Independence, Mo.

Those cities, along with IHL holdovers Fort Wayne, Quad City, Dayton and Bloomington, Ill., will comprise the reconstituted Central Hockey League’s North Conference in 2010-11, the CHL announced Tuesday.

The South Conference will consist of the Allen (Texas) Americans, Arizona Sundogs (Prescott Valley, Ariz.), Bossier-Shreveport (La.) Mudbugs, Laredo (Texas) Bucks, Mississippi RiverKings, Odessa (Texas) Jackalopes, Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (Hidalgo, Texas), Texas Brahmas (Fort Worth) and Tulsa (Okla.) Oilers.

The 19th CHL season will begin Oct. 15 with six games. The Komets will open the season Oct. 16 against an opponent yet to be determined.

“We are very excited about the divide between the two conferences and feel the balance and rivalries created will be great for all fans,” CHL commissioner Duane Lewis said a news release.

Komets president Michael Franke echoed those sentiments and added that the “divide between the two conferences” will soon be made somewhat clearer in terms of the CHL-IHL relationship.

“In regard to alignment, right now it states North and South, but very soon there will be an announcement made in regard to the actual naming of the conferences,” he said. “The CHL-IHL affiliation will make more sense when that happens, and it will clear up a lot of things for the fans. Now the package starts to make more sense.”

For the former IHL teams, it also provides what they wanted: everyone in the same conference and a schedule that will put a premium on keeping travel costs down. In that regard, look for more games against South teams such as Mississippi (across the river from Memphis, Tenn.) and Tulsa than, perhaps, road trips to North foes Colorado or Rapid City.

“We have also volunteered to make a trip to Texas during the season if need be,” Franke said. “And I would fully expect a number of CHL teams in both conferences to travel to our neck of the woods.”

The CHL is expected to announce the schedule next week and will announce the number of games, dates of the 2010-11 season and the playoff format this week, perhaps as soon as today.

“By (this) afternoon at this time the fans are going to have a real clear picture,” Franke said.

In other news, three more players, including veteran forward and playoff hero P.C. Drouin, have agreed to terms with the Komets for the 2010-11. Joining Drouin a pair were rookie forwards Joe Bluhm and Brant Marple, who last season were the top two scorers for Wisconsin-Eau Claire, an NCAA Division III school.

That brings to 11 the number of players the K’s have locked up for next season, with more on the way.

“I think you will see probably another release on some players still yet this week,” Franke said. “We feel really good about where we’re at right now, what’s been announced and what’s in the pipelines.”