Change of plans.
The Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team had its regular season delayed a day Friday due to a power outage and deteriorating ice conditions at Amsoil Arena and will now drop the puck on the 2015-16 season at 7:07 p.m. Saturday against Bemidji State at the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn.
The Bulldogs, ranked No. 2 in the United States College Hockey Online.com preseason poll, were supposed to open the season at home against the Beavers.
“It’s obviously tough to have a home opener like that,” UMD senior captain Andy Welinski said. “We were excited to play. It happens. … I don’t think it will throw things off, it just moves things back a little bit.
“We’ll come in with the same mindset, ready to go.”
No makeup date has been set for Friday’s game. Both UMD and Bemidji State are working to find a date to play later in the season. They won’t play Sunday, said UMD athletic director Josh Berlo, who added tickets for the makeup game will be honored for the rescheduled date. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“There are things you can control and things you can’t,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “This is a first in my career, but it is what it is. You roll with it and you move on.”
Amsoil Arena lost power around 2 p.m. Friday after a Minnesota Power subcontractor, working on a Minnesota Power project, bored into an unmarked private underground cable, causing the outage to the building, as well as the DECC and the Ultrascreen at the Duluth 10 theater. The William A. Irvin Haunted Ship was forced to close up for the night.
Amsoil Arena does have backup generators, but those can only be used for life safety such as fire alarms and emergency lighting. The ice rink isn’t considered a life-saving device, said the DECC’s Jeff Stark.
According to Stark, the ice temperature at Amsoil had risen to 28 degrees by 6 p.m. from the ideal playing temperature of 20 degrees. He said it would take a minimum of 90 minutes to bring the ice back down to the playing temperature.
With 8:07 p.m. being the latest UMD and Bemidji State could drop the puck, that meant power had to be restored by 6:30 p.m., which Minnesota Power couldn’t guarantee, Stark said.
“With soft ice conditions, you can’t have Division I players going full throttle out there because it’s an injury risk for them at that point,” Stark said.
Minnesota Power was attempting a work-around to restore some power to Amsoil Arena by tapping into a second feed that comes into the movie theater. That power would be used to keep ice in and the rest of the building functioning.
Work on the main feed that was cut was scheduled to begin late Friday night. Minnesota Power reported on Twitter just after 9 p.m. power had been restored to the DECC.
As the outage continued through the afternoon UMD and Amsoil Arena officials said they would make a decision on the game at 4:30, and then 5:30, before the official postponement notice was sent out just before 6 p.m.
Fans driving to the arena were turned away from the DECC parking ramp. In the newly reopened Northwest Passage skywalk, fans wearing UMD sweatshirts and hats notified each other of the postponement and expressed shock and disappointment at having to turn around.
One group of fans joked that they knew the game had been postponed, but decided to go on a tour of the renovated skywalk.
A half-hour before the puck was supposed to drop, UMD seniors Lizzy Hazard and Rachel Yadlosky checked their cell phones in the skywalk, saying they still hadn’t received an email announcing the game’s postponement.
“It would have been nice to know,” said Hazard, who had changed shifts at work so she could attend the game. The two students joked that without a hockey game, they now had time to get a jump on their homework for the weekend.
Duluth resident Jerry Johnson said she was surprised that there weren’t signs posted on the doors of the skywalk notifying people of the postponement. Johnson and her husband are snowbirds who like to attend a few UMD games each season before they head to Arizona, and were disappointed at the missed opportunity. The Johnsons said they didn’t remember a similar postponement happening in the decades that they’ve been season ticket holders.
Janet McCormack had driven south from Thunder Bay, Ontario, to watch her son, Bemidji State captain Graeme McCormack, play against UMD on Friday. She said she was disappointed that she wouldn’t get to see the game, especially after having already booked a hotel in Duluth for the night. Leaving the DECC, she said she was surprised that an arena of Amsoil’s size didn’t have backup power that would have allowed the game to be played.
News Tribune reporter Lisa Kaczke contributed to this report.