All or nothing as Braves set sights on championship

Coach Brad Cook and the Saanich Braves are not losing sight of the fact this is their year.

Josh Gray

Coach Brad Cook and the Saanich Braves are not losing sight of the fact this is their year.

The Braves (19-4-1) went 7-1-1 in November and are the second-ranked team in B.C. behind the Victoria Cougars (25-1-1).

There have been some great seasons in the Braves’ 45-year history, and this could be one of their biggest, as they try to win their first Island championship since 1996.

“We try not to lose sight of the fact that we’re in a developmental league,” Cook said.

“We try to roll four lines consistently, to give younger guys a chance to fail (so they can learn), chances on the powerplay and penalty kill, and chances to face other team’s top players.

“But if there’s ever a year that we’re going to look beyond that, this is it.”

Two weeks ago the Braves served notice to the rest of the province as the first team to take the Cougars out in regulation with a 3-1 win.

One of the biggest reasons for success this year is the team’s depth. There have been promising seasons from the Braves in recent years but for the first time the team is not being slowed by injuries.

Recruiting has changed for the Braves, as word of the team’s success has reached dressing rooms around the province. The biggest piece added in the offseason was Josh Gray, a Gibsons native who once played for Osoyoos in the Kootenay junior B league.

Gray finished last season with 17 points in 14 games for the Texas Brahmas of the USHL, and has no regrets about the decision to leave the NCAA-feeder league for the Braves.

“It was pretty rough down there, a little different, and it was great weather, but I’m pretty happy here,” said the 6-foot-3, 205 lbs. winger.

Gray, 20, has gelled with captain Ty Jones (26 goals, 55 points in 22 games) on the top line, scoring 19 goals and 21 assists in 24 games.

“(Gray) brings a really calming presence in the dressing room, and a big physical presence on the ice,” Cook said. “He’s been to the Cyclone Taylor Cup (B.C. championship), the kind of player you want when you’re going to make a run at the playoffs.”

The additions continue for the Braves.

Nolan Kinney, another 6-foot-3, 200-lbs. winger, has played two games since coming over from the Kerry Park Islanders. Last week Chad Roorda returned to the Braves after two seasons playing junior A. His arrival on the blue line is perfect timing as he is desperately needed to help fill in with injuries to defencemen Jordan Groenhyde, Brandon Parmar, Tom Dakers and Andrew White, a forward who also succombed to injury while playing defence.

And it gets better, as the Braves won the Max Mois sweepstakes on Monday, acquiring the leading scorer of the Westshore Wolves.

“Max was coveted by other teams and said he wanted to come to us. He’s a top scorer, and he makes us that much stronger,” said Braves general manager Norm Kelly.

“It shows we’re committed to going all the way this year.”

Mois, a former Nelson Leaf of the Kootenay junior B league, is sixth overall in VIJHL scoring leaders with 19 goals and 18 assists. He can play centre, or wing, and gives the Braves the option of an even sharper first line, with Jones and Gray.

It also lightens the load on the depleted defence, as forward Shawn McBride will remain on the blue line.

“You go through cycles in junior hockey, and right now we’re at the top of our cycle,” Cook said. “We owe it to the guys to win.”

sports@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Queue up a playlist of Victoria musicians

Local guitarist, Cody Rueger, creates playlist to highlight Victoria’s music scene

Wednesday sees mainly cloudy skies

Plus your weekend forecast

Ambulance service practises virtual reality CPR in Victoria

Training takes place on B.C. Parliament lawns

Langford considers regulating sale of spray paint following string of vandalism

Regulations could involve restricting sale to minors, locking up spray paint

VIDEO: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you support the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion?

The federal government announced Tuesday its approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline… Continue reading

Man to be sentenced for sexual abuse of young girl in Nanaimo

Stephen Mark Castleden also sentenced for child pornography-related charges

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

VIDEO: Firefighters stop blaze from spreading after BMW crashes at Saratoga Speedway

Victoria-based businessmen were ‘corner training’ on Father’s Day when incident took place

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

Most Read