Jonathon Brodie – Recorder & Times
Like George and Weezie from The Jeffersons, the Brockville Braves are movin’ on up.
The Canadian Junior Hockey League released its weekly top-20 rankings and put the Braves in the No. 9 spot.
The weekly tabulations are compiled by an independent scouting service and use a variety of factors to determine the rankings. There are 133 teams from 10 leagues across Canada that hope to find their name on the CJHL list each week.
Brockville saw its name just off the standings last week by being an honourable mention for the inaugural edition of the 2018-19 rankings. The Braves led the way for the CCHL in the current release of the weekly standings with the Hawkesbury Hawks, at No. 15, and Carleton Place Canadians, No. 20, behind them.
The last time Brockville even came within a sniff of getting on the list was when they were an honourable mention back in November 2015.
The bulk of the Braves players found out they made the cut onto the CJHL rankings when equipment manager Brooks Taylor let them in on the news in the team’s group chat and told them, “How proud he was of us and he’s never been part of a team like this,” said Brockville forward Joshua Spratt.
“It’s pretty early in the season right now, but it’s a pretty big accomplishment. Brockville hasn’t been in there for quite awhile,” said Spratt. “I feel like our hard work is paying off and it’s getting recognized. That’s pretty big for right now.”
This should mean something to the Braves. It should let them know that what they’re doing is not only getting them noticed in the CCHL, but they’re starting to make waves across the Canada-wide CJHL.
If you ask some of the Braves players, though, there’s no reason to think they won’t be going up from here.
“If we keep going we can keep climbing the rankings and showing that we are a top team in the country,” said Spratt.
In nine games this season the Braves have shown that they’re gritty, they move at a high-pace, their defence and goaltending is high quality, and that they regularly put a focus on doing the small and less appealing parts of the game for a player like grinding in front of the net, crashing the corners, and blocking shots. This is a team fans can get used to and are rewarding with increased attendance.
Brockville’s defence has let in a CCHL-best 1.6 goals per game. The offence, which came out sputtering to start the season, has managed to pot the fifth most goals per game average and seem to be trending upwards. They’ve now won seven straight.
“I just think we have the mindset that we’re not going to hold back and we’re always going to go for it and we can win every game,” said Braves assistant captain Simon Kerr.
The Braves players understand a No. 9 ranking, or any ranking at all for that matter, doesn’t exactly carry a lot of weight. Brockville will deservedly get high praise for where they sit in the CJHL standings, but you don’t get anointed as the league’s best in early October.
Although the CJHL ranking doesn’t exactly mean much in terms of overall success, the list does provide something Braves fans should keep their eye on and get excited about.
CCHL clubs have been trying to catch up to the Carleton Place Canadians for years and teams use games against the Canadians as a measuring stick of where they need to be.
Carleton Place without a doubt still holds the title of being the CCHL’s most-elite club – they’re still in the CJHL rankings and are a top team in the league – but getting recognized by outside forces as a favourite over a perennial powerhouse like Carleton Place could be the start of a changing of guards.
“I wouldn’t say we’re chasing Carleton Place anymore,” said Spratt. “I think we are one of the top teams. We’re at the top of the league right now and I think we’ve earned that through hard work and we’re not just going to let that go away. We’re going to try to keep that as long as we can.”
There was expected to be a growing pains for the Braves to start this season with eight rookies (out of 19) dressed for the opening night lineup. Brockville coach Jesse Winchester even tried to dampen expectations for the start of the season for that exact reason, insisting the team would go through a learning curve at the beginning of the year.
Well, the first month is in the books and the Braves are buzzing. In turn, fans are buzzing too.
“We have a really good group of guys that came back and the new guys are doing really well. I think we got off to a good start that’s for sure, but we’re definitely getting better every game or trying to. Every time we’re on the ice we’re trying to get better,” said Kerr. “Our work ethic and our coaching really helps. They never lets us get too high or too low.”
Right now, the Braves are as high as they’ve ever been in a long time.
CJHL Top 20 (As of Oct. 1) RANK TEAM (LEAGUE) (LAST WEEK)
1) Nipawin Hawks (SJHL) (1)
2) Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) (2)
3) Waywayseecappo Wolverines (MJHL) (7)
4) Yarmouth Jr. ‘A’Mariners (MHL) (15)
5) Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) (Not ranked)
6) Cobourg Cougars (OJHL) (13)
7) Powassan Voodoos (NOJHL) (12)
8) Inouk de Granby (LHJAAAQ) (11)
9) Brockville Braves (CCHL) (Honourable mention)
10) Les Cobras de Terrebonne (LHJQ) (Honourable mention)
11) Bonnyville Pontiacs (AJHL) (19)
12) Aurora Tigers (OJHL) (Not ranked)
13) Brooks Bandits (AJHL) (Not ranked)
14) Humboldt Broncos (SJHL) (Not ranked)
15) Hawkesbury Hawks (CCHL) (14)
16) Oakville Blades (OJHL) (20)
17) Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) (Not ranked)
18) Calgary Mustangs (AJHL) (Not ranked)
19) Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (NOJHL) (Honourable mention)
20) Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL) (Honourable mention)
Original Story at Recorder.ca