After hearing a new multiplex in La Ronge could be as near as five years away before construction began, I was a little surprised to find this statement on the introduction to a survey about such a facility on the Town of La Ronge website:

The life expectancy of Recreation & Leisure facilities are approximately 40-50 years. The Mel Hegland Uniplex was built in 1977 therefore the life expectancy is reaching its end. The Town of La Ronge will produce a feasibility study to build a New Multipurpose Recreation & Leisure facility in the Town of La Ronge. This will be a 10-20 year project; to begin we would like to poll our community members regarding a new facility such as this. Please let us know how your opinion.  

Ten to twenty years... not what many in La Ronge were hoping for.  For me, the rink (though a driving force for my interest) comes secondary to the theoretical walking track and swimming pool that would come along with a multiplex.  My personal opinion is the town is in dire need of the pool facility, closely followed by the indoor track.

So what's in the survey?

1. Age Group?
2. Rent/Own in which community?
3. Will you use a new facility?
4.  Will you help fund raise? (Also asks for contact info if yes)
5. Willing to allocate some of your taxes to new facility?
6. What percentage of that?
7.  Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: My taxing authority/municipality should raise property taxes to build a new Recreation & Leisure Multipurpose facility.
8. Are you willing to pay user fees?
9. What would you be willing to see in the facility?
Rate (1-low, 5-high) Swimming Pool, Rink (Hockey/Curling), track, fitness centre, conference centre, field house

The results will be posted in March.  The survey deadline is February 29th. You can take the survey at the town website: http://www.laronge.ca/index.php

Obviously the ten to twenty year timeline is the eye-popper of the whole thing.  I think most would agree that the Mel, despite being only thirty years old, is pretty much at the end of its life, not nearing.  It won't match the 40-50 year life expectancy because its construction wasn't meant to deal with the traffic and use that it sees.

I will be contacting the town to find out more about the project, which at the very least, seems to be taking steps forward (if a little slowly).  

UPDATE:

I spoke with Mayor Thomas Sierzycki this afternoon about the project and survey.  It was pretty positive as he mentioned the 10-20 year number is to stay away from overly ambitious goals.  They're definitely looking towards the lower end of that spectrum.  If things fall into place properly, I get the impression it can move quicker.

They are battling some issues including low census numbers that can delay the project.  You can listen to my full interview with Mayor Sierzycki Monday night when the Ice Wolves take on the Bombers in Game Three of the Survivor Series on MBC Radio.

So far there are only around 300 respondents to the survey, and the town is hoping for many more, so like commenter Northern Boy says, head over to the town site and take the survey.

-D
 
Facing off with the Melfort Mustangs on home ice right before the playoffs was seen as a chance for the Ice Wolves to build some momentum heading into their series with the Flin Flon Bombers.  The Wolves had outscored the Mustangs 18-4 on home ice entering the contest, so the optimism wasn't exactly unwarranted.  However, the Wolves couldn't find a way to beat Jesse Wilkins once and went on to lose 1-0 to the Mustangs.

The Wolves managed 43 shots on Wilkins, though the total wasn't necessarily indicative of how the game rolled along.  The Ice Wolves seemed to hop out of the gate strong in a period, then taper off, then pick it back up in the late stages.  When it was all said and done, the Wolves probably had less than 30 minutes of solid 'Ice Wolves Hockey'. Not the way this squad is going to win games.  The final stretch of games certainly wasn't a happy one for the Wolves.  They enter into the playoffs having won only three games in their last ten.  

The Wolves night started off pretty well with an early powerplay.  Unfortunately for La Ronge, Brendan Tash was hanging out behind the Ice Wolves defence, took a lob pass and snapped a wrister by Myles Hovdebo to give the Mustangs the lead on the shorthanded goal.  It was a tough goal to allow, but something the Ice Wolves could bounce back from.  Wilkins proved unbeatable, though, and the Wolves would head to the break down a goal.  

The second period followed a similar formula, but the Mustangs had a few great chances with the puck sitting right on the Ice Wolves goal line.  Hovdebo was able to hold the puck out, though, and the Wolves managed to get to the third just needing one goal to maybe break the flood gates open.

It never happened.  The Mustangs were just too solid defensively to overcome and Wilkins kept the door firmly shut.  La Ronge had plenty of opportunities, but nobody was able to put one behind Wilkins.  The Mustangs celebrated their thirteenth win of the season and wrapped up a disappointing year on a high note.  It will be interesting to see where the organization progresses from here.  They have a solid ground-work in place and look to be in a position to improve next season.

The Ice Wolves move on to the survivor series looking for a spark.  The team hasn't been playing its best hockey of late, but better to get that out of the way before hitting the playoffs.  They'll have a couple days of practice where they'll try and get back on track, then it's the playoff version of the War in the North.

There's a great preview of the series on SJHL.ca.  I'll have my own breakdown ahead of Game 1 at the Mel Friday.

It was a wild regular season, and it will only get crazier from here as the Wolves embark on their journey to capture a third straight SJHL Championship.

-D 
 
The Ice Wolves put forward a very strong effort Friday night.  They played a good enough game to win at the Whitney Forum, but the Hockey Gods weren't smiling on La Ronge this evening.

The Wolves jumped out to a lead courtesy of Wilson Dumais with a nice wrister from the slot.  They carried the play from there, coming up with chance after chance, only to be denied by Devin Buffalo.  The second period was very similar with Buffalo putting on a brilliant display for those assembled.  Alex Rajotte was in fine form as well, coming up with some very challenging saves to keep the Ice Wolves in the lead.

Finally in the third period, the Ice Wolves found a way by Buffalo when Aaron Enns ripped home his 23rd of the season off a one-time feed from Marc-Andre Carre.  The Ice Wolves relaxed at that point and it would cost them.  They didn't play poorly down the stretch, but didn't have the same urgency to their game.

 
The Ice Wolves make a trip over the cut-across to visit their Northern Nemesis, the Flin Flon Bombers tonight at the Whitney Forum.  The final instalment of the (regular season) War in the North has a fair bit on the line for the Ice Wolves while not as much immediate impact for the Bombers.

The Wolves, slim though their chances may be, still have a shot at third place if they can win their final two games.  They need some serious help from the Bombers and Mustangs, but there's hope.  The disappointing thing is the Ice Wolves, for a time this past week, held their own fate and couldn't convert.  The Wolves wanted to come away, and felt they had a legitimate shot of coming away with six of eight points, but only got three.  The Wolves entered the third period of each game with at least a chance to get a point or two.

Tonight they'll attempt to salvage five points out of the stretch of five on the road.

 
I'll start with the good, and that was the win against Melville Tuesday night.  The Wolves found themselves down on multiple occaisions, but found a way to battle back.

When they ran into penalty troubles late in the third period, they battled and were rewarded with a shorthanded goal to pick up the win.  It was a fast game and a blast to call.  I really liked Jared Iron's game Tuesday and Wednesday, it was good to see him successful in his return to the lineup.

Wednesday's game showed me two things about the Wolves.  One, they can run in a high scoring game with a high scoring team.  Two, when their backs are against the wall, they can deliver.  Two important traits to have when rolling into the playoffs.  The win provided a lot of optimisim, expecially in their drive to gain third place in the Bauer Conference.

The same can't be said for the game in Yorkton.  The Ice Wolves didn't play a poor game by any means, but it certainly wasn't a game that gave you the sense the Wolves were fighting tooth and nail for third place.  The road seemed to catch up with the Wolves who were playing their fourth in five nights.  Two goals in the first period certainly took some of the jump out of the Ice Wolves step.  That said, the Wolves finished the period outshooting the Terriers despite trailing by two.

 
The Ice Wolves are off to a rough start on their final set of road games before the playoffs.

After all the bus issues of Friday and Saturday, the team arrived about an hour and fifteen minutes before puck drop (as opposed to the usual two) against the Millionaires Saturday.  It was my first visit to the Horizon Credit Union Centre in Melville and it's a gorgeous facility.  Not quite on the same level of splendor as Spectra Place in Estevan, but it doesn't need to be.  The rink follows the now relatively standard designs of new Junior-A/small centre rinks with a bowl of seating traveling most of the way around the rink.  The luxury boxes on one wall (still under construction) are mirrored by a fitness centre across the way.  The one downside to the new rink is the lack of a broadcast booth.  This limits the ability for Melville to host any major events like the Western Canadian Championship in the future.

Enough about the rink.  The Ice Wolves rolled out to a solid start against the MIllionaires.  They hit everything in sight and it was quickly evident Melville didn't want to be in that type of game.  The problem for La Ronge was Alex Wakaluk.  He was unreal all night and robbed the Wolves on many a chance.  It took an equally impressive goal by Wilson Dumais to get the Wolves ahead going into the break.

 
I was going to write this post in beautiful Melville, Saskatchewan tomorrow, but seeing as the schedule has shifted, I'll take care of it now.

The Ice Wolves were supposed to leave La Ronge today (Friday) and take it nice and easy down to Melville where they would await the home team to arrive back from Nipawin.  Not so.  Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Wolves will now be head out tomorrow (Saturday) morning bright and early at 7:30.  Obviously makes for a much tougher day schedule, and it means I don't get to sleep in.  You may not care about the latter, but the former isn't to great for a team starting out on their most important road swing of the season.  I can imagine most of the players aren't pleased, but they're pretty good at sleeping on the bus anyway.

Enough on the transportation.  The Ice Wolves face off with the Millionaires for the first time since early December.  It's the first time the Wolves play at the new Horizon Credit Union Centre and the first time the Wolves see the Mills since the trade deadline.  

 
The Ice Wolves and Hawks fought out another classic last night at the Mel.  It certainly looked like they would be headed to yet another game involving extra time until an unlikely hero emerged.  On a delayed penatly, Skyler Hladun got the puck back to Alex Vandenameele who walked unchallenged into the slot to snap home his first goal of the season for the Ice Wolves.

Alex Rajotte and the Wolves would hold onto that one goal edge and Brennan Wright put in an empty netter to seal the 2-0 victory.  The win brings the Ice Wolves within two points of the Hawks for third place in the Bauer Conference and the Wolves still have a game in hand.

 
The Hawks have already taken the season series between the two teams, which takes some importance from this game.  However, it's far from not mattering.  Quite the opposite in fact.  The Standings are ridiculously close, but with only a few games remaining, small gaps can become quite large very quickly.  Take the Flin Flon Bombers.  They sat only seven points back of the Hawks, and could have made it five last night.  They lost, now the gap is nine, and the Hawks magic number is four points to fully eliminate the Bomb Squad from third place contention.  

While the Ice Wolves aren't quite in that same boat, they will be rather quickly if they don't win tonight.  With the slew of road games approaching for the Ice Wolves, winning their final two home games is beyond imperative (if you can have something past imperative).  It's tough to find good help these days with the Hawks on such a hot streak.  The Wolves are contending with a team that has points in sixteen straight.  The next closest run in the league happens to be the Ice Wolves and Yorkton Terriers who have points in six straight.  So if there was ever a time to cool off a team on a run it's tonight.

 
I had a nice quick blog post all done, but apparently the computer Gods decided to strike down my non-saving arrogance by deleting the post when I was a click away from finishing.  So I'll give you the even shorter version of the short version.

The Ice Wolves and North Stars were very evenly matched after one period of play.  The game started out with a real playoff intensity and was a treat to watch.  The second period, however, would belong to the Ice Wolves.
Picture
Wolves celebrate Enns' goal
Klay Kachur actually opened the scoring for the visitors with a seeing eye shot from the half boards.  The Wolves would take over from there as they peppered Graham Hildebrand with 22 shots in the frame.  If not for the one they call Hildy, the Wolves could have owned a much more impressive lead than the 2-1 edge they held after two.  Aaron Enns and Nathan Boyer grabbed the Wolves markers.  For Boyer, it was his 20th of the season.  La Ronge did pretty much everything right in the second period and really put out a workman effort, winning a lot of battles and putting a ton of pressure on the Stars.

The third period was very different as the North Stars made all all the appropriate adjustments and shut down the Ice Wolves.  They didn't really dominate the Wolves like La Ronge had the second, but there was a methodical confidence about the North Stars.  Battlefords just seems to be able to come up with clutch goals this season, and they got one.  With eight minutes left, a fluke bouncer found its way by Myles Hovdebo to even the score at two.  It was a disappointing goal for the Ice Wolves netminder who was pretty solid on the evening.  Hovdebo helped get the Ice Wolves to overtime, with three huge saves down the stretch despite being in considerable discomfort after a collision with Tanner Schwab.  Brody Luhning went on to score the lone goal of the shootout as the Wolves fell a full two points back of the Hawks, but gained one on the Bombers.  

The Wolves can even up the standings if they can take a win from the Hawks on home ice coming up Wednesday night.  

Before that, though, it's Superbowl time!  I'm picking the Pats at 33-26.  Who do you have?

-D