St Malo Warriors christen new ice plant with convincing victory
It was fitting on a night where the community was celebrating a new piece of equipment in the St Malo Arena, the hometown junior hockey team came out with a workman-like performance to pick up a victory.
Dignitaries, politicians and stakeholders came together before the start of the St Malo Warriors game against the North Winnipeg Satelites Jan. 20 to celebrate the building’s new ice plant.
The new plant paid immediate dividends for spectators, as fans enjoyed a more comfortable atmosphere while watching the Warriors demolish their opponents in a 6-1 victory.
The plant and dehumidifier may be in place to help extend the building’s life, but as a bonus, the excess heat generated by the system is pumped into the arena to keep temperatures from falling too low.
“Facilities such as this arena play an important role in communities,” Dennis Smook, MLA for La Vérendrye said during the ribbon cutting ceremony.
“My wife Gwen and I spent a lot of time in arenas with our four boys growing up, and now spend time in arenas watching our grandsons play hockey. This project will support future generations make memories while participating in sports and recreation activities.”
While De Salaberry recreation coordinator Ken Hassan said the dehumidifiers and new plant could add 25-30 years to the lifespan of the building, Warriors head coach and manager Ralph Collette joked he hoped it would be turned off for his team’s games.
“We like teams not happy coming here,” he said, laughing.
Even with the rink’s improvements, there should still be a solid home ice advantage for the Warriors, as shown Jan. 20. St Malo pinned North Winnipeg in their own end for long stretches of the game, dominating on the scoreboard and on the shot clock.
“We have a forechecking team, and we know our rink is a little bit smaller than most hockey rinks,” Collette said.
“We know when teams come here, they need to be ready, because if you get a good one-two forecheck, teams can get startled and that’s why we try to jump on teams as early as possible.”
As the rink’s usual resting temperature of -12 degrees with 90 per cent humidity was gone, players needed to adjust.
“It’s a tough change, because it’s warm out there,” Warriors captain Cole Holdnick said, laughing.
“We’re not used to it yet. We’re used to going out there and being chilly at first. It changed to this and now we’re sweating like crazy.”
Hassan said after the game the system still needed some fine tuning, with the building actually a few degrees too warm after the initial hook up.
“We’ve got to dial it in, because we’ve had problems with ice melting around the boards,” he said.
The improvements couldn’t come at a better time for a St Malo team which has been rocketing up the Capital Region Junior Hockey League (CRJHL) standings. The Warriors now comfortably sit in second place, thanks to a new commitment to a more intense practice schedule.
“We’re keeping the guys on the ice,” Collette said, noting junior A teams get their players on the ice as much as possible.
“We know at our level, because of work and school, guys can’t do that (to a junior A level), but our group right now is committed.”
Holdnick agreed, noting the extra practices have helped improve chemistry in the team.
“We’ve come a long way from the start,” he said.
“We’ve improved, everyone’s committed, and practice by practice we’re looking better and sharper.”
The new ice plant wasn’t the only debut during the victory over North Winnipeg, as former Niverville Nighthawk Dayden Collier suited up for the Warriors for the first time.
The 2004-born forward from Medicine Hat, Alta., made an immediate impact, scoring twice and adding an assist in his St Malo debut. He also chipped in an assist in a 3-2 overtime victory against third-place Arborg Jan. 22.
The $600,000 ice plant project was mostly covered by a government of Manitoba building sustainable communities grant and funds from the rural municipality of De Salaberry. Both levels of government contributed more than $250,000 to the project’s costs, with the Manitoba Metis Foundation, Casse Group, St Malo Chamber of Commerce, HyLife, Village Connection, donations made in memory of Laurent Lambert and other donations making up the remaining cost.
Hassan hinted further improvements to the St Malo arena could be on the way, and told residents to keep an eye out for future announcements. The Warriors final game of the regular season is set for Feb. 18 in St Malo.