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Whig Standard February 21 2008

Fronts eager for fresh start; Hockey club opens new arena

By Doug Graham Whig-Standard Sports Reporter

There was an edge of anticipation among the Kingston Frontenacs yesterday as the team practised for the final time before tonight's opening Ontario Hockey League game at the K-Rock Centre.

Between three-on-two rushes, shooting drills and special teams work, players were anxious to receive any word about their new hockey home.

"I heard it's pretty sweet," said Kingston assistant captain Nathan Moon after the team's practice, which had been scheduled for the new downtown facility, was switched to the Memorial Centre.

The players, none of whom have been in the new rink, said the disappointment of not getting on the new ice surface until this morning - when they are scheduled for a light skate - is far outweighed by the anticipation of what will be a historic event tonight.

"I was fortunate enough to experience it last year with Oshawa," said 19-year-old Kyle Paige, who was a member of the Generals when the team moved into General Motors Centre last season. "It was definitely exciting.

"The guys are going to find in the first couple of shifts they are going to be looking around. Once the game gets going, you forget it's in a new rink."

Moon said all the players are excited.

"It's a fresh start for us in a brand new home. This is something we have been anxiously waiting for," Moon said.

"I know in those first few shifts everyone is going to be looking around, but after a while it's going to be just like a game against the [Belleville] Bulls."

While it isn't ideal to go into a game without a full practice in the new surroundings, Paige said the excitement overrides that disadvantage.

"Boards are boards," he said. "It will be exciting to get in the new [dressing] room. I'm sure we will adjust to the ice just fine."

The Frontenacs were told after practice yesterday that they would be taking their gear to the K-Rock Centre last night.

"The players haven't seen it at all. We'll get our first look then," captain Justin Wallingford said, adding that tonight's game will be the culmination of what he has heard talked about since he arrived in Kingston via a trade from Oshawa in 2004.

"There has been a lot of talk the last two or three years. It's going to be nice to open her up," Wallingford said.

"We're going to enjoy it to the max."

With the Frontenacs not making the playoffs, the 20-year-old Wallingford will only get to play eight games at the K-Rock Centre before his junior career is over.

Younger players on the team are not only looking forward to this season's games but opening a new season at the K-Rock Centre.

"Just to have the facility we will have is a great feeling," said 17-year-old goaltender Mavric Parks. "It's going to be the No. 1 rink in the league, I've heard. It's going to be great.

"[Tonight] is going to be a great atmosphere. We're sold out for the next two games. It's going to be pretty fun and an exciting time.

"The guys are going to be pumped."

Opening night

What: The K-Rock Centre opens tonight with an Ontario Hockey League game.

Who: Belleville Bulls (39-12-4-2, first in the East division) vs. Kingston Frontenacs (17-36-0-2, last in the East division).

When: 7:30 p.m.

Beforehand: Opening ceremonies will begin at 6 o'clock. The teams will warm up for 20 minutes prior to more ceremonies at 7:15.

Status: The game is sold out with 5,700 fans expected, which will make it the largest crowd ever to watch a hockey game in Kingston.

Encore: The Frontenacs will also play at the centre Sunday afternoon; that game is also sold out.