Look­ing for a big­ger year

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - SPORTS - JONATHON BRODIE

What will Jesse Winch­ester do for his sec­ond act? In his first-ever year be­hind a ju­nior hockey bench, the Brockville Braves head hon­cho was named the CCHL’s coach of the year for 2017-18 af­ter a sea­son where he took a club orig­i­nally ex­pected to be a bub­ble play­off team and ended up get­ting them to be­ing one win away from beat­ing the even­tual Bog­art Cup and Fred Page Cup cham­pi­ons in the semi­fi­nal.

What else does Winch­ester have up his sleeve this time around?

“Hope­fully the fi­nals,” he said with a wry smile.

You know he’s hop­ing, along with Braves fans, for more than just an ap­pear­ance in the Bog­art Cup. He likely wants the ti­tle.

The ex­pec­ta­tions will grow this year for Brockville, but Winch­ester has also earned more lee­way af­ter ex­ceed­ing the early sea­son predictions for how his team would fair and get­ting them to third place.

“I think in your first year in the league there’s that growth pe­riod where you learn the league, learn the play­ers, learn the coaches and what’s go­ing on. Winch­ester is a pro, so he fig­ured out pretty quick what’s go­ing on,” said Braves coowner and gen­eral man­ager Dustin Traylen. “Ob­vi­ously, there’s a lit­tle bit more ex­pec­ta­tion, but we trust what­ever he does.”

It was a much-needed breath of fresh air for the Braves or­ga­ni­za­tion last year. There seemed to be a cul­ture shift in the locker room and in the stands with peo­ple be­liev­ing things were chang­ing for the bet­ter and you could make a strong case that Winch­ester was the big­gest piece that got the pen­du­lum swing­ing. The head coach would of­ten point to as­sis­tant coach Devin Payne for help­ing him through the learn­ing curve.

Just like how a ros­ter al­ways changes year-in and year-out, so does a coach’s phi­los­o­phy. Af­ter such a suc­cess­ful year, though, how much does Winch­ester re­ally need to change?

“Def­i­nitely, I’ve learned a lot, but the ap­proach to the game is sim­i­lar,” said Winch­ester. “I have a pretty cur­rent knowl­edge of what’s go­ing to be suc­cess­ful, but I’m a lit­tle more con­fi­dent and a lit­tle more or­ga­nized this year and hope­fully that will trans­late into quicker re­sults.”

Some things never change, though. “Panic but­ton” was a re­cur­ring word for Winch­ester last sea­son and he al­ways ref­er­enced it to how his team was never ready to push it. With a lit­tle less than two months be­fore the 2018-19 sea­son ac­tu­ally starts, Winch­ester wasted no time break­ing out his favourite catch­phrase at last week’s main camp in Kemptville.

With so many play­ers grad­u­at­ing af­ter last sea­son – An­drew Jarvis, Jonathan Hill, Tyson Kirkby, Eric Hol­land, Michael Lo­catelli, Ni­co­las Vla­hos, Mike McArthur, and Jordi Jef­fer­son – the Braves will likely have a younger ros­ter this year and, like last year, Winch­ester is ex­pect­ing a stronger sec­ond half of the sea­son while his team works out the kinks early on.

Last sea­som the Braves had a .566 points per­cent­age in 2017. When 2018 came around they started trend­ing up­wards and picked up a .708 points per­cent­age.

“There’s no panic but­ton here and we’re here for the long haul,” said Winch­ester. “We’re here to de­velop solid young men who love the game and hope­fully add a cham­pi­onship at some point in the mix.”

Winch­ester’s go-to “panic but­ton” motto might stay the same, but it doesn’t get more dif­fer­ent than bring­ing Brockville its third Bog­art Cup in 56 years.

PHOTO BY PHIL KALL

Jesse Winch­ester ex­ceeded most peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions for the Brockville Braves last year.

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