Ste Anne Aces eager to join SEMHL

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by CASSIDY DANKOCHIK

The last time the senior Ste Anne Aces finished a season, they did so as league champions. Although that was their last on-ice memory, for the team and its fans, it certainly doesn’t feel that way.

“It’s not that we’ve lost, but it feels like we’ve been losing,” Kevin Lansard, the head coach and general manager of the Aces said.

The Aces have left the Carillon Senior Hockey League, as the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented the league from playing since March of 2020. Ste Anne and the Grunthal Red Wings were tied at two games a piece in the final game of the Carillon Senior Hockey League finals when play was stopped. The Aces were league champions in 2019, and even had a team picked out and ready to play in 2021.

After two long years, Ste Anne will once again take to the ice, but this time it will be in the South East Manitoba Hockey League (SEMHL). The SEMHL, which has been in existence since the 1950s, will be one of the deepest senior hockey leagues in recent memory in the province, boasting 10 teams in 2023.

The plan is for teams to play a balanced schedule, with a home and away game against each other team in the league.

“From a fan perspective, it’s going to be a great experience every time you come to the rink you’re going to see a team, especially for us, for the first time,” Lansard said.

Lansard added he expects the Aces to have a good mix of veteran and new talent, noting several players who may have otherwise stopped playing want one more shot at glory.

“I feel we’re going to chomping at the bit more than some other teams,” he said.

“We were successful, we won our provincials the last time we were there… (The players) feel like there is unfinished business.”

Ste Anne will be joined in the SEMHL by fellow Carillon league teams Ile des Chenes and the Red River Wild, which play out of St Jean. Ile des Chenes never even got a chance to play in the Carillon league, as their franchise’s planned inaugural season was cut short by COVID. Several team executives and players on the Ile des Chenes team have connections to the Aces.

“Those are some close friends,” Lansard said.

“We wish them nothing but the best — until we step on the ice of course.”

The three new teams will join SEMHL existing franchises in Notre Dame, Carman, Morden, Winkler, Portage, Altona and the defending league champions Warren.

“We just really want to play hockey at the end of the day,” Lansard said.

“There was limited places where we could play… (We were) having a hard time drawing attendance playing the same teams over and over again.”

The roster is likely to be similar to the cancelled 2021 season, with some slight adjustments due to different import player rules in the SEMHL.

A start date and new playoff format for the new SEMHL will be set at a league-wide meeting Sept. 21.

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