Jeremy Bracco has been told over and over again by his coach to shoot the puck more. He made Windsor bench boss Rocky Thompson look like a genius on Friday.
The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect scored once and set up another as the host Spitfires opened the 2017 Memorial Cup with a 3-2 victory over the Saint John Sea Dogs.
“I don’t know if [coach] will ever say I do it enough, but he’s preached it to me the last six weeks,” said Bracco.
“I’ve worked a lot on my shot, six or seven shots tonight and it worked out.”
The 20-year-old Bracco, selected 61st overall by Toronto in 2015, began the season with the Kitchener Rangers, but found himself with Windsor after a mid-season trade. At the time the Memorial Cup wasn’t on his mind, but dressing for the Spitfires was something the Freeport, N.Y., native wanted to do.
‘Fortunate to be here’
Playing for the Canadian Hockey League’s biggest prize after Windsor bowed out in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs turned out to be an added bonus.
“This was one of the teams I had in the back of my mind that if I got traded I’d waive my no-trade clause to come to,” said Bracco. “Obviously the playoffs didn’t work out for us but I’m fortunate to be here.”
“Jeremy really has been a great kid and we’ve tried to strengthen areas, shoot the puck more, he’s arguably got one of the best shots on our team,” said Thompson. “He bought in and did a great job since we were able to acquire him.”
Jeremiah Addison and Aaron Luchuk scored the others for the Spitfires (1-0-0), who got a 20-save outing from Michael DiPietro.
Nathan Noel and Thomas Chabot scored for the Sea Dogs (0-1-0), the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions. Callum Booth stopped 20-of-23 shots in defeat.
Windsor went 44 days between games after being eliminated in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, but the rest looked to be a benefit rather than a negative for the tournament’s hosts.
‘It wasn’t easy’