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Braves open home-and-home with Lumber Kings Friday – Recorder & Times

Tim Ruhnke – Recorder & Times

Brockville will have its hands full this weekend, and so will Pembroke.

The Jr. A Braves play a home-and-home with the Lumber Kings. The opener is set for the Brockville Memorial Centre on Friday at 7:30. Pembroke will host the rematch Sunday night, which will take place during that city’s Rogers Hometown Hockey Festival.

The Lumber Kings lead the CCHL’s Robinson Division and have the second-best record in the league (16-4-2-1). At 14-7-0-2, the Braves are third in the division and fifth overall in the CCHL, and trail Pembroke by five points.

In their previous matchup on Oct. 1, the Lumber Kings won 4-2 in Brockville. The game was 2-2 late in the third period when Pembroke broke the tie and then added an empty-netter.

Pembroke is ranked 14th in Canada in this week’s CJHL top 20 list of Jr. A teams.

“It’s going to be a tough weekend,” Braves head coach Randy Jones remarked in an interview Thursday. “We’re going to have to be firing on all cylinders.”

The Lumber Kings have some of the best special-teams numbers in the league as well as the top goal scorer in the CCHL, Brady Egan. On Thursday, Pembroke’s Jesse Kirkby was named Gongshow Gear first star of the month in the league.

“Special teams is going to be huge for us,” said Jones, who added he is pleased with the direction the Braves’ power play and penalty kill have been going in recent games.

Brockville went 7-3 in November and has shown consistency recently in the net and on the blueline. Sami Molu, who is slated to start in goal Friday night, has a save percentage of about 0.940 in his four games since joining the Braves last month.

“Sami’s been good for us,” the coach said. “We really want to take care of home ice.’

Brockville defenceman Thomas Haynes was named CCM Player of the Week in the league earlier this week. Fellow Braves blueliner Kevin Fitzgerald received an honourable mention for rookies in CCM’s CCHL Performers of the Month for November.

Brockville won both of last weekend’s games by a score of 3-1.

“Happy with the boys… the way they stuck together, competed hard,” said Jones.

Spectators are reminded to bring their bags of “healthy essentials” to the Memorial Centre on Friday night in support of the annual Christmas program led by The Pier Church. Check out the Brockville Braves page on Facebook for more information.

In their first nine home games of the 2021-2022 regular season this autumn, the Braves had a slightly higher average attendance (385) than for the first nine home dates in 2019-2020 (382) before the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be 55 games for each team this regular season, down from 62 two years ago.

Last fall and winter, Brockville had a limited number of developmental scrimmages for which attendance was capped at 50 as part of provincial measures implemented in response to the pandemic.

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