Tim Ruhnke – Recorder & Times
It’s been almost six months to the day since Randy Jones and his daughter Anabell arrived at the Brockville Memorial Centre on a Friday afternoon in early July.
Jones was introduced as the new head coach of the Brockville Braves, after two-time CCHL Coach of the Year Jesse Winchester had taken on a full-time development role with the Ottawa Senators.
Since then, Jones – who had finished a three-year stint coaching a midget AAA team in Saint John, New Brunswick – has maintained Brockville’s place among the top teams in the Jr. A league. The Braves entered the Christmas break in second place in the Robinson Division and with the second-best record in the 12-team CCHL behind division-leading Carleton Place.
“It’s been nothing but enjoyment,” Jones said in an interview on Tuesday. “The players have been absolutely fantastic.”
The bench boss acknowledged he had high expectations going into the season, knowing there would be adjustments along the way. The hard-working players are meeting those expectations and are doing so at a professional level, according to Jones.
“They respond very well… a great group of kids to work with,” added the coach.
The former NHL defenceman’s emphasis on building a team from the goaltender out has produced results. Brockville has given up the second fewest goals in the league, and Braves netminder Jake Begley has the second-lowest goals-against average (2.40) in the CCHL.
Brockville had a mediocre start to the season and was 7-4-3 when the Braves put together a 15-game winning streak and separated themselves from the middle of the pack in the division. They entered the Christmas break with a record of 25-8-3 and ranked 18th in Canada by the CJHL; at #4, Carleton Place is the only other CCHL team in the national top 20.
“The boys are very deserving of being in this position,” the coach stated, “but there’s still a long way to go.”
Jones is hoping that the Braves will “continue along the same path” and keep improving individually and as a team in the final two months of the regular season so that Brockville is “firing on all cylinders” when the playoffs arrive.
“Now, it’s serious time,” he remarked.
The Braves made it to the semi-finals but lost to eventual league champion Ottawa in each of the last two seasons.
Brockville’s first game of 2020 is at home against Nepean on Friday night at 7:30.
As for his first six months in Brockville, Jones appreciates the response from the community.
“The fan support has been fantastic,” the Maritimer stated. “It’s a nice small town.”
Jones said it’s great working with and getting to know better Braves owner and GM Dustin Traylen, with whom he was teammates on the Clarkson University Golden Knights more than 15 years ago.
The bench boss also indicated it has been a good experience “meeting some new faces along the way” during his time in Brockville.
Original Story at Recorder.ca