The NAU Ice Jacks ice two teams, a Division II and Division III team, and play at the club level in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. Their home in Flagstaff, the Jay Lively Ice Arena, sustained a partially collapsed roof during a snowstorm on Jan. 21. Needing to prepare for a pair of important upcoming games against Nevada-Las Vegas, the Ice Jacks traveled to Glendale and worked out on an NHL rink, courtesy of the Coyotes.
NAU Head Coach Keith Johanson said that the hockey program has had to improvise since the roof collapsed.
“We’ve been practicing at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott, but that’s an hour-and-a-half haul each way,” Johanson said. “We practice at 10 at night, and get home at two in the morning.”
|NAU players stretch during Friday's practice. Photo by Norm Hall. |
He added, “It’s tough on the guys and it’s expensive. Then they had a wresting tournament up at Tim’s this weekend, so the Coyotes got us ice to practice down here tonight.”
Kevin Ingram, a senior defenseman, said he and his teammates are trying to fight through the adversity.
“We’re hitting the bus for Prescott once a week,” Ingram said. “We’re on the road twice as much as we are on the ice, so we buckle down and do our studies on the road, get our sleep in on the way there and back. It’s just something that happens and you’ve just got to roll with it.”
Johanson said that NAU hockey is a very well-supported program in Flagstaff, and that the team can fill up the stands with more than 1,500 fans for a game. But while practicing and playing in state-of-the-art rinks in Prescott and Glendale is nice, he and the team miss the home-ice advantage that the Lively Ice Arena provides.
“Being that we’re 7,000 feet (above sea level) we’re real hard to beat when we throw four lines out there,” Johanson said. “We just wear other teams down; by the third period they’re just sucking wind.”
Ingram said that he and his teammates are thankful for the community’s help during these unusual circumstances.
“Obviously the Coyotes are helping us out with ice time,” Ingram said. “We’re just trying to finish out the season and hope for the best as far as our rink goes.”