Jonathon Brodie – Recorder & Times
Hopefully the Brockville Braves rookies were taking notes during their team’s 3-2 shootout win against the Carleton Place Canadians on Friday.
It was a pretty good crowd that attended the Braves home opener and it’s a good bet a good chunk of the fans will return to the Memorial Centre after a game that was packed with high-intensity kept up on Brockville’s side by their veterans.
Playing the Canadians, a perennial contender, in your home-opener in the fourth game of the season is never ideal, but it lets every rookie — all nine of them in the Braves line-up — see what the best in the league looks like.
A game this early against the Canadians is one where you rely on your veterans and you hope your rookies learn a thing or two from Carleton Place. If Brockville’s rookies managed to pick up a few things from their own players then they’ll be more than fine this year.
The win came when second-year winger Philippe Gilmour casually skated in and slipped the puck between Connor Murphy’s legs to score the first shootout goal. Assistant captain Eric Faith then put the puck low blocker side to get the second shootout goal. Brockville goalie Liam Souliere closed the door from there with saves on the Canadians last two shots.
Those were just the finishing touches the Braves vets put on the game, but their imprint was all over it.
Captain Fred Allaire scored his first goal of the season in the second period to tie the game. Ten minutes later, second-year blue liner Simon Kerr made a strong pass to rookie Emerick Nadeau to take the lead heading into the third period.
There was a roughly five- to- 10-minute section in the second period where Brockville looked out of their depth, but they were able to weather the storm because Souliere stood on his head. He wasn’t flailing and he didn’t look like he was ever in serious trouble even when he was laying on his stomach making a glove save like he did in overtime that ultimately led to the Braves win.
“He’s a gamer, he’s confident back there, he plays the puck extremely well, he finds lanes, and we’re fortunate to have him,” said Braves coach Jesse Winchester, about Souliere, who has now won all four of the games he started this season and has a .966 save percentage. “He’s on top of the league as far I’m concerned. I haven’t seen much of the league, but I’ve seen enough of him to know that he’s capable and competitive — everything you want in a goalie.”
It wasn’t just the big goals and saves that made the vets relevant to the game.
Midway through the third period with his team down a man, Allaire stole the puck from the Canadians and ended up taking about 30 seconds off the clock.
A minute later, second-year forward Nicholas Hawkins, with his team down two men, blocked a shot with his chest and got just enough of the puck to slap it away over the blue line.
Faith looked possessed in the final minutes of regulation. He made a beauty pass to Gilmour that the winger had trouble getting a hold of. A minute later he used a nice move to get around the Canadians defender and had a partial breakaway that he couldn’t finish.
Earlier in the period, second-year Joshua Spratt stole the puck at the Braves blue line and then skated down the ice fora 2-on-1, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
“Faith was incredible and Gilmour with the shootout goal — they step up. Fred (Allaire) scoring the first one. Kerr making a play on the second goal and Simon Mack was just buzzing all over the ice,” said Winchester. “I think Spratt has taken strides. I think the (veterans) all have and they know what we expect from them, but I think the most impressive thing is they expect it for themselves to play a certain way and they like to ride up. They like the challenge and that’s what we’re looking for with the new guys too.”
Before the season started, Winchester said it was going to take some time for his team to get over the hump with so many rookies on the roster.
In five games this season, though, Brockville has won four of them. Although every team is working out their kinks, the Braves have now beat the two teams that are consistently the best every year by taking down the Ottawa Jr. Senators and the Canadians.
“There’s been times when we do look young on the ice, but that’s also a good thing,” said Winchester. “It shows there’s a lot of room to grow and I think with the leadership, the expectation of how we play, and the IQ and the skill that the younger guys bring, we do like our mix. We’re demanding, but patient and I think that’s a good mix to have.”
Brockville will host their next game at the Memorial Centre against the Hawkesbury Hawks next Friday. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m.
Original Story at Recorder.ca