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Notes from the Braves Pre-season Opener – Recorder & Times

Jonathon Brodie – Recorder & Times

The Kemptville 73s beat the Brockville Braves 6-2 at the Ingredion Centre in Cardinal on Thursday afternoon in CCHL preseason action.

To be fair, it’s hard to put a lot of stock into exhibition games.

Thursday’s matchup was Kemptville’s fourth pre-season game, while it was the first time Brockville laced up the skates for some real action with camp having opened Monday.

Kemptville had eight players in their lineup that had less than 30 CCHL games under their belt. Brockville had one player in their lineup with more than 30 CCHL games experience.

Despite the pre-season not indicating much in terms of the regular season, it does give a glimpse into the potential future of the team – Who is making a serious push to be on the roster? Which players seem to understand coach Jesse Winchester’s work ethic and style of play? Are there any incoming players that standout among their peers?

Below are some note on the Braves from Thursday’s matchup:

Mack is back

Brockville defenceman Simon Mack is ready to go for his sophomore season.

He originally wasn’t on the roster to play Thursday’s exhibition game, but then his name was penciled in last minute. Winchester said that Mack asked to play in the game after making his first appearance at camp Wednesday. He was the only veteran in Brockville’s lineup.

The 17-year-old Penn State commit hadn’t played since Feb. 13 when he sustained an upper-body injury that ended a stellar 2017-18 rookie season.

His first game back wasn’t flawless, but all that really matters is that he’s playing.

Seeing Mack back on the ice should be welcomed by Braves fans. By the midway point of last season he started to find his offensive touch, while maintaining his defensive presence. In the 16 games prior to being sidelined he picked up four goals and 15 assists in 16 games.

“Having Mack back is a huge boost for our team,” said Winchester.

Who’s up next?

It’s hard to say what Winchester is still looking for to insert into his lineup, but there are a few players that should keep people excited whether they land on the Braves or Tikis.

Garrett McArthur – who is the younger brother of Mike McArthur – is quick, feisty, and pinballs around the ice like a Tasmanian devil. Matt McQuade has a quick release. Bailey Kirwin consistently found shooting lanes Thursday.

All of them clearly have talent and you have to wonder what a year with Winchester could do for them if they make the cut onto the Braves.

Can they grow as much as Joshua Spratt or Frederick Allaire did last year? “There is still some jobs in the air and battles to be won. I think some guys have really opened our eyes, while others still have to prove something,” said Winchester.

Dubas debut

New assistant coachWalt Dubas completed his first game on the bench with the Braves on Thursday.

It’s the first time in eight years Dubas has coached another CCHL team other than the Smiths Falls Bears.

So, how did it go? “It will take (some time to mesh), but we’re lucky to have a guy of his experience,” said Winchester. “He’s been in the game forever, he’s calm back there, he’s very knowledgeable, and he’s a calming presence.”

Battle for backup

Rhett Wesolek and Antoine Bourdeau split time in net in Thursday’s game. Both came highly touted out of the Braves camp a little over a month ago. Both are going for the backup spot behind Liam Souliere.

Wesolek gave up four goals, but made a lot of good saves and likely made more tough stops than what he would see in a regular CCHL game.

Bourdeau let in two goals, but there were times when he left you wondering if he was lucky to make a certain save or if he really meant to be in that spot. You got that sense at times with Justin Evenson and Henry Johnson too and they both turned out better than alright.

“May the best man win,” said Winchester, adding Brayden Kelso to the list of potential netminders in a Braves jersey next year. “It’s the way it goes and we’re looking to build on the performances today. They’re all going to get a chance to perform again.”