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Braves treat practices, scrimmages like regular season

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You want to win and get better, no matter what the setting.

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That’s the approach taken by Brockville Braves head coach Randy Jones as the Jr. A hockey club awaits word on when the CCHL will finally be able to launch its regular season.

In a pre-season that is now in its fourth month as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Braves are continuing their series of non-contact controlled developmental scrimmages with the Cornwall Colts. Brockville won both the Friday night match-up at home and the Sunday afternoon road game.

“Very proud of the boys for the way they performed this weekend,” Jones said in an interview. “For the most part, it was a very good effort.”

The bench boss indicated that the coaching staff emphasizes the need for the players to keep putting in a full effort even though the scrimmages don’t count in the standings.

“We treat every single game as a regular season game,” said Jones. “We drill it into the players’ heads each and every day.”

Jones cited the leadership being shown by returning 20-year-olds Troy Bowditch and Parker Casey as well as Ryan Gillespie, who impressed as a rookie last season.

“I’ve leaned on them a lot so far,” said the coach, “and they’ve been fantastic to work with.”

Jones said that Bowditch and Casey “understand what it takes” for the team to be successful; he described Gillespie as a quiet leader who sets an example by what he does on the ice each day.

“And the younger players are following,” said the coach. “The leadership has been fantastic.”

Speculation is that the season could finally open in January, subject to the approval of health units in the region. Asked when he would like to see the regular season start, Jones quipped: “Two months ago.”

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“I’m a competitor, and I want to get going,” said the coach, who acknowledged there are a lot of things going on and there are “trying times” off the ice because of the pandemic.

It’s unclear if the Braves and Colts will be playing scrimmages this coming weekend. Attendance at the Memorial Centre is limited to 50 spectators. Many of the Jr. A as well as the EOJHL Jr. B scrimmages are airing on Hockey TV.

Although they are not considered official pre-season games, the league has been posting game sheets and stats from many of the developmental scrimmages played in the last three weeks. Brockville-Cornwall stats are not being compiled, but stats from the Smiths Falls-Carleton Place scrimmages are being posted.

Last season’s home opener for the Braves was played on Sept. 6, 2019.

The NCJHL is trying to open its 2021 regular season on Jan. 8. The Jr. C league, which includes the South Grenville Rangers, has proposed an 18-game season followed by playoffs. Play would be non-contact to start.

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