Bisons, Ice soon to return to friendly confines of Wayne Fleming Arena
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University of Manitoba men’s hockey coach Mike Sirant has welcomed one of the finest recruiting classes in program history to campus this fall.
Trouble is, the talented group still hasn’t skated one minute at the friendly confines of Wayne Fleming Arena.
The U of M men and women as well as the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice have all been playing road games and practising at the Rink Training Centre while major infrastructure work is completed at Wayne Fleming.
The university received federal funding earlier this year to replace the ice plant as well as the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system for 40-year-old Max Bell Centre.
U of M facilities manager Simon Wang confirmed Wednesday the arena work is only a few weeks away from completion. Work began in June and the Bisons men are scheduled play their first games at Wayne Fleming on Nov. 11 and 12 against the Calgary Dinos.
Prior to that, the Manitoba men face UBC in its Canada West home-opening series Friday and Saturday at the Rink with another home series against Mount Royal booked for Oct. 28 and 29.
“It’ll be nice to be able to get back into are own home confines, but the people at the Rink Training Centre have been super to work with and have been very accommodating and our players have had a very positive attitude about it,” said Sirant.
Head coach Jon Rempel and the Bisons women open their home schedule Oct. 14 and 15 against Regina and Oct. 21 and 22 against Trinity Western at the Rink before returning to Wayne Fleming to host Alberta Nov. 4 and 5.
The Ice, meanwhile, are playing 13 consecutive road games before opening on home ice Oct. 29 against the Brandon Wheat Kings.
“The Ice are playing in our building and they were on the long playoff run so they couldn’t get started (with renovations) until June,” explained Sirant, who lost a 5-1 pre-season decision to the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks Oct. 1 and followed that up with a 4-3 shootout win over the Bemidji State Beavers Oct. 2.
“So, that’s why we had to look at an alternative venue for training and playing games to start the season. We’ve been at the Rink Training Centre on MacGillivray (Boulevard), started training camp in September and we’ll be there until the end of October.”
Among the off-season additions, Sirant brought in forwards Jonny Hooker (Prince George Cougars, WHL) and Jackson Arpin (Winkler Flyers, MJHL), defencemen Ryan Gottfried (Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL), Evan Toth (Vancouver Giants, WHL), Zachary Patrick (Steinbach Pistons, MJHL) and Parker Malchuk (Dauphin Kings, MJHL) and goaltenders Ross Hawryluk (Western Michigan, NCAA) and Simon Harkness (Steinbach, MJHL).
“We had a very good recruiting year and the players that we brought this year are making an immediate impact on our team,” said Sirant. “They’re fitting well into our culture and really buying in and are excited to be with the Bisons.”
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.