Jonathon Brodie – Recorder & Times
After getting pounded 5-0 by the Ottawa Jr. Senators at the CCHL Showcase about two weeks ago, Brockville Braves coach Jesse Winchester said he wanted to see how his team would do against the Sens after a few more weeks of practice under their belt.
A loss is still a loss, but the Braves bench boss left the arena Friday encouraged after losing 5-4 to Ottawa at the Memorial Centre because of the strides he thought his team had made since the last time they met.
Winchester gave his team two out of the three periods, but it was16 seconds in the middle frame — a period Winchester scored for his team — that gave the big blow that really hurt Brockville.
“We’re learning, we’re young and we have a ton of rookies, but if we keep going like this then we’re going to be fine,” said Winchester.
In the first period it looked like it was going to be another long night for the Braves against a team that bullied them out of last year’s playoffs. Brockville was lucky they finished the opening 20 minutes only down 2-1.
Ottawa smothered Brockville and completely stifled the Braves offence. The Senators are without a doubt a quality team and in the opening 20 minutes the Braves looked like a squad that had a bulk of its roster just joining the team about a month ago, which it did.
In the second period the Braves started to show some life.
They looked hungry right from the get-go in the middle frame and Fred Allaire scored his first goal of the year to tie the game 2-2.
Just when it looked like the tide had turned in favour of Brockville that’s when Ottawa scored two goals, both on 2-on-1 situations, just 16 seconds apart to go up 4-2.
Brockville went into the third period trailing by a goal after Philippe Gilmour found the back of the net late in the second.
Again, the Braves came out flying and Joshua Spratt scored about a minute into the third period to tie the game, but the finishing blow came just 22 seconds later from the Senators.
This was the second time this year Braves netminder Yaniv Perets has been shelled by the Senators for five goals. On Friday, though, it would have been tough to pin the blame on a goalie who let in two goals on 2-on-1s, another marker on a bad turnover in his own zone (the second goal), and another tally coming on a power play (the first goal). The game-winner is maybe one Perets could have gotten to, but that’s how it goes with the hockey gods sometimes.
Whether it was desperation or the Braves rising to the challenge, the third period was certainly their best in Friday’s game.
Their legs looked fresher. They were immensely more aggressive. They weren’t giving up anything easy to Ottawa.
If Brockville had played the entire game the way they did in the third period the result would have most likely been different. The annoying hockey cliché of, ‘You got to play a full a 60 minutes,’ always seems to ring true.
“You never like to lose, obviously, but for the most part it was an encouraging message,” said Winchester. “The last two periods we took it to the most hyped team in the league and everything was playing simple. We took 30 seconds off and it costs us.”
Although the Braves ultimately didn’t get the job done, if there’s something they can take away from the third period it’s that not only can they keep up with Ottawa — a club that by all means has the talent to win it all this year — but at times they can be even better than them if they push themselves.
“It just goes back to learning the game, learning how to compete consistently. We’re seeing a lot of spurts in the game right now and tonight it was two out of there periods,” said Winchester. “We’ve had a couple of games where it’s been two out of three, but this was a pretty complete effort in those 40 (minutes).”
There’s just something about these Senators that consistently seem to get the better of the Braves. Last year Brockville beat the Senators just once in the 11 games they played in the regular season and playoffs. The Braves have a long ways to go to be on that kind of skid, but so far they’re 0-for-2 this against the Senators
The Braves have a busy week ahead of them and hit the road for three games to take on the Pembroke Lumber Kings on Sunday, the Smiths Falls Bears on Tuesday and the Kanata Lasers on Thursday before returning home next Friday to face-off with the Carleton Place Canadians.