The Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Winnipeg ICE continue to remain busy during the 2021 offseason. With the league announcing its plan for a full 2021-22 season beginning on Friday, September 17, teams are starting to put the essential pieces in place for what they hope to be a lengthy and successful playoff run.
The Winnipeg Freeze are no stranger to the trading market. Although entering the league just before the beginning of the 2020-21 ‘season’, the team had high hopes for its inaugural campaign. COVID-19 clearly had other plans.
The Freeze have since seen a major overhaul in the front office/head coaching position, with Harry Mahesh joining the organization after 2020-21 head coach Josh Green accepted an assistant coaching position with 50 Below Sports + Entertainment’s Winnipeg ICE of the Western Hockey League.
Mahesh, a Vanderhoof, BC. product, has a number of years of coaching experience to his name, following a lengthy professional career. The 33-year-old served behind the bench of the CSSHL’s Banff Academy and Calgary’s Minor Midget AAA Canucks, before coming to Manitoba, where he coached two years with the Pilot Mound Hockey Academy’s U-18 female prep squad. He spent the 2020-21 season back in the MJHL as an assistant with the Winkler Flyers.
“I’m very excited to be able join the Freeze in their ‘second season’,” Mahesh told Game On. “Even though the 2020-21 season was cut short, they did a great job getting the team up and running last summer. Being able to work with these motivated young men and being able to help them develop both on and off the ice is something I’m really looking forward too. I want to thank Jake (Heisinger) and Matt (Cockell) again for this opportunity. I can’t wait to get started.”
Mahesh and Co. has already been quite busy since taking the reins this offseason. After making a sizeable deal to acquire Sequoia Swan and Matthew Yakubowski from the Winkler Flyers in early-June, the Freeze have since made two more deals that will see two local, 2002-born forwards joining the fold.
Winnipeg picked up Matthew Mason-Vandel from the Neepawa Titans in exchange for Brody Melsted, and then dealt Brock MacDonald to the OCN Blizzard for Ashton Romaniuk, a 2022 sixth round draft pick and the rights to Jordan Wood.
Mason-Vandel is a 6-foot-1, 175-pound 19-year-old, who wrapped up his U-18 AAA career with the Interlake Lightning in 2019-20. He amassed 22 goals, 41 points and 46 penalty minutes in 46 games, while also suiting up for seven games of Junior, split between the MJHL’s Neepawa franchise and the St. James Canucks of the MMJHL. Once again, the Winnipegger split time between the two clubs in 2020-21, collecting two assists and 12 penalty minutes in six total games.
Romaniuk, 18, is a six-foot, 185-pound forward of La Broquerie, who has played U-15 AAA for the Eastman Selects, as well as one season with The RINK Hockey Academy’s Elite 15s Canadian Sport School Hockey League program. Romaniuk’s minor hockey career came to a close in 2019-20 with the U-18 AAA Winnipeg Bruins, where he put up 16 goals, 36 points and 58 penalty minutes in 40 games. He suited up in eight games for the OCN Blizzard over the past two years, earning two goals, an assist and two penalty minutes in the process.