TAVISTOCK – With 15 returning players and three new assistant coaches, there is lots of optimism with Tavistock Braves as they head into the 2015-16 Midwestern Jr. ‘C’ Hockey League season.
Going into the regular schedule, Braves have set a couple of team goals, says head coach and GM Jamie Petrie, who returns for his second season in Tavistock.
The first one is to win 24 regular-season games (broken into five-game increments). The second one is to win a playoff round -- something that hasn’t been done in Tavistock at the Jr. ‘C’ level.
Of the 15 returnees, nine are forwards as well as five defencemen and a goaltender. The goalie is Ben Larder, 18, of Stratford, who posted a 17-12-3 record in 35 starts last season. The lefthander had a 2.62 goals-against average, with three shutouts.
Returning forwards include Jake Wiffen, Shaun Pickering, Angus Rowland, Jamie Shoemaker, Maverick Petrie and Jordan Ritsma.
Wiffen, 18, was the Braves’ leading scorer a year ago with 13 goals and 26 points in 32 games. The 17-year-old Pickering had 14 goals and 24 points in 36 games.
The 6 ft., 5 inch, 215 lb. Shoemaker added 19 points (8-11) in 34 games. The 19-year-old hails from Owen Sound.
Braves are looking for overager Ritsma, 21, “to score some goals this season,” Petrie says. Ritsma had four game winners last season.
Also back is top defenceman Jared Yantzi, 19, of Tavistock.
A “significant loss” for Tavistock is captain and defenceman Matthew Lupton, who went overage. “He logged a ton of ice time for us last season,” coach Petrie said.
Lupton also contributed 22 points (8-14) a year ago, and picked up 133 penalty minutes.
Newcomers include defenceman Hendrik Rolleman, goaltender Horia Lucaciu and forward Jacob Rooke.
Rolleman, 18, hails from New Hamburg and played for the Jr. ‘C’ Firebirds last season.
Lucaciu, 18, is from Hamilton and played for the Hagersville Jr. ‘C’ team a year ago. He was a late cut from the Caledonia Jr. ‘B’ Corvairs.
Rooke is the lone 16-year-old on the Braves. From Embro, he was a member of the Huron-Perth Lakers ‘AAA’ Minor Midgets last season.
“I think he’s going to be good,” coach Petrie noted.
Forward Tyson Zehr, 20, is also back in the Tavistock line-up after taking a year off to concentrate on fastball.
Two 18-year-olds have returned to the Braves after spending time at Jr. ‘B’ camps. They are defenceman Tayler Trachsel (St. Marys) and forward Josh Borys (Waterloo).
“Most of our team is 18 and 19-year-olds,” Petrie says.
The head coach also has three new assistant coaches this season. Don Grasby and Bill Pickering, both of Stratford, and Jared Frayne, of St. Marys, will join Petrie on the bench.
Frayne is also the assistant GM. Back as well is Jeff Whetstone, the Braves’ director of hockey operations.
“For us to go forward, I needed some extra help,” Petrie acknowledged.
“What I believe we need in Tavistock is some consistency and stability – from the players to the coaches, managers and executive, and it looks like we’re getting that now.
“I am extremely excited to work with Bill, Don and Jared. Jeff (Whetstone) and I have already seen the wealth of hockey knowledge all three have, but just as important they are all good people.
“From the GM/coaches to our 23rd player, we believe in every decision we make regarding our hockey team it’s
‘Braves first, our own agenda second.’”
--Braves, who went 4-1 in their pre-season schedule, host Delhi in their home opener this Friday, Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
--Shaun Pickering led Tavistock in exhibition scoring with four goals and eight points. Jake Wiffen and Angus Rowland added five points apiece (2-3).
--Braves are affiliated with Stratford Jr. ‘B’ Cullitons this season.
--This year, there are eight Tavistock residents on the Braves’ roster.