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Published: Sunday, 10/18/2009

'Ice Man' still learning arena dynamics

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Florida's Steve McJannet, left, and Toledo's Justin Hodgman square off Saturday night in the Lucas County Arena's first fight. Florida's Steve McJannet, left, and Toledo's Justin Hodgman square off Saturday night in the Lucas County Arena's first fight.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

The ice at the new Lucas County Arena became soft and "chippy" late in the game on opening night Friday.

Florida coach Malcolm Cameron said the choppy conditions hurt his team's ability to control the puck.

Jesus Rivera, the operations manager for SMG, said his crew is still learning how the new chillers and heating systems affect the ice on game night.

"Toward the end of the second period, the coaches said the ice was getting a little soft," Rivera said. "I think it might have been because we had a full house [8,000] and the heat was up a bit more."

Rivera, who attended ice school and worked at an SMG facility in Grand Rapids for 13 years, said it's a matter of getting used to the arena's dynamics.

"The ice was a little slushy, and it wasn't smooth," Rivera said. "We'll make adjustments."

Rivera, who is referred to as the "Ice Man," said last night he kept the ice a little colder and had the Zambonis shave a bit more off the ice surface between periods.

"It's a team effort," Rivera said. "We're here to satisfy both teams, and that is what we will do."

FIRST FIGHTS: Toledo center Justin Hodgman and Florida winger Steve McJannet got into the first scrap in the history of the arena and Walleye franchise last night.

Hodgman and McJannet squared off at center ice 17:35 into the game. Neither landed big blows, and Hodgman was the first to fall to the ice during the fight.

A much more brutal fight occurred 2:08 into the second period. The capacity crowd roared its approval as Toledo's Mike Hedden battled Florida's Jacob Micflikier in the brawl. Both players landed punches and ended up bloodied. Micflikier immediately left the ice and headed to the locker room with a towel over his mouth. The game also was delayed briefly to clean up the blood.

Minutes later, Toledo tough guy Malcolm MacMillan tangled with Brad Zanon. MacMillan quickly shoved Zanon to the ice in the brief fracas as both were called for roughing. Yet another fight occurred when the Walleye's Ryan Smith and Florida's Elgin Reid went at it just before the end of the second as Smith knocked Reid to the ice.

PUCK DROP: Start High School graduate Dustin Wells, who was injured while playing in a high school game on Nov. 28, dropped the ceremonial first puck last night.

Wells suffered a serious back injury during a hockey game against Northview. Wells, who lost feeling in his right leg, has recovered from a swollen spinal cord injury.

FISH TALES: The Riley Cup, the ECHL's playoff trophy, was on display at the arena last night. ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna also was in attendance. … On Sweetest Day, every female in attendance received a flower at the game last night. The yellow carnations were handed out at the gate. …The official seating capacity of Lucas County Arena is 7,431. Standing room areas can increase that total attendance to 8,000. … An octopus was tossed onto the ice after Toledo's second goal.



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