Rock & Lumberjacks postponed

TIMMINS – Will the Timmins Rock ever begin the second half of their 2017-18 NOJHL season?

That’s the question Rock fans have to be asking themselves after it was announced Sunday night’s game at the McIntyre Arena has been postponed because of inclement weather and the closure of portions of Highway 11.

The NOJHL also postponed Sunday’s game between the Soo Thunderbirds and the Rapids in French River.

For the Rock, Sunday’s postponement marks the third time the team’s attempts to start the second half of its schedule have been cancelled.

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)

The team had originally been scheduled to begin play Thursday night in Cochrane with a game against the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre, but an arena availability issue resulted in that contest being rescheduled for Friday, Jan. 26.

Then, Saturday night’s game in Kirkland Lake had to be postponed because of high levels of carbon monoxide inside the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex.

Rock coach Corey Beer could only chuckle when asked if he was beginning to think the rest of the league is afraid to play his squad.

“Something tells me that’s not quite the case, but what a weird turn of events to start the new year,” he said, after regaining his composure.

“We were on the bus for four hours on Saturday, then at the rink for another two, just to have a nice Subway meal, which was a little bit different than we expected.

“The mind set changed from OK, you are a little upset we didn’t get the game in, to focusing on coming back and getting focused for Sunday night’s game.

“Now, we have got to change our mindset again to gear up for this week’s four-game road trip.”

That road trip, of course, was originally scheduled to be a three-game excursion, but when the Rock’s game against the Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie on Oct. 27 had to be postponed because of a bizarre combination of mechanical woes with their bus and the closure of a highway due to a fatal collision, that contest was tacked onto the front of this week’s journey.

As a result, the Rock will take on the Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie Thursday night, the Express in Espanola Friday night, the Wildcats in Elliot Lake Saturday night and the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour Sunday afternoon.

“Having a rescheduled game as our first game back after the break just kind of fits with the way things have gone this season,” Beer said.

“It is going to be a tough road trip, but fortunately we have a couple of extra days to get practised up and simulate some in-game intensity. That’s never an easy thing to do, but we will try to throw as much as we can at the guys.”

While Sunday night’s game was postponed, the Rock did take to the ice for a little extra practise.

“We did a pretty hard skate to emulate the game we missed,” Beer said.

“Monday will be a skills day, while Tuesday and Wednesday will be a prep for a nice four-game road trip.”

The coach is confident the Rock will be up to challenges presented to them by the latest scheduling quirks tossed their way by the hockey gods.

“We have endured so much adversity already this season, having a couple of games cancelled or rescheduled isn’t going to be a wrench in our armour,” he said.

The postponement of Saturday night’s game in Kirkland Lake came less than 24 hours after Friday night’s NOJHL game between the visiting Thunderbirds and the Gold Miners had to be suspended late in the second period, with the teams deadlocked at 1-1, also because of high levels of carbon monoxide in the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex.

The Rock and the Gold Miners were dressed and ready to take to the ice, but they were sent back to their dressing rooms to change out of their uniforms and the fans were asked to exit the building.

Danny Sasseville, an acting platoon chief with the Kirkland Lake Fire Department confirmed Saturday night’s postponement was caused by the same issue that led to the suspension of Friday night’s contest.

“We once again experienced high readings of carbon monoxide,” he said.

“We are still trying to figure out what’s causing the issue.”

Saturday night’s postponement came as a bit of a surprise given the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex was the site of a number of minor hockey contests and a public skating session without incident earlier in the day.

“After Friday night, we were in contact with workers here at the arena and I instructed them if they encountered high readings again to call us back,” Sasseville said.

“They had workers here this morning and there were some natural gas employees here this morning. They did some testing with their meters and everything tested fine.”

Hand-held meters carried by Sasseville and other firefighters were clearly going off Saturday night prior to the scheduled start of the NOJHL game, however.

According to Sasseville, incidents like the ones experienced Friday night and Saturday night are not common at the Joe Mavrianc Community Complex.

“These are first ones we have had in a long time,” he said.

“The readings are too high to have people standing here for any period of time.

“The ideal level is zero, but anything above 15 parts per million, for an extended period of time, is unhealthy.”

Asked to speculate if the unseasonably cold temperatures might have played a factor, Sasseville said: “I believe so, yes. And with all of the vehicles parked in the back (due to the construction at the site), it isn’t helping. There are fresh air intakes all throughout the building and they could be drawing in all of the exhaust and dispersing it throughout the structure.”

As of Sunday night, the NOJHL has not announced a make-up date for Saturday night’s postponed contest, or the two that were cancelled on Sunday, nor has it stated when Friday night’s suspended contest will be completed.