by Tim Morris
Braxton Ross had two choices. The 16-year-old could continue to play hockey in AAA where he would possibly dominate or he could move up to junior hockey and play for the Ottawa Junior Senators even if it might mean less playing time.
Ross chose the latter with no regrets.
“It was the best option for my development as a player,” Ross said of joining the Junior Senators for the 2021-22 campaign. “Looking back on the season, it was the right decision. I got way better playing against older guys. They helped me as a player and a person.”
It was certainly a learning year for the 5-10, 161-pound forward.
“It was hard to adapt,” Ross remarked. “The first game I played, everything was so much quicker.”
However, the first-year forward remembers when everything began to slow down for him.
“When I scored my first goal, I gained a lot of confidence,” the native of Kanata, ON, said. “It was off a turnover. It was a two-on-one and I received a great pass from (Simon) Isabelle and put it in the open net.”
Having broken the ice and scored that elusive first goal, Ross now believed he belonged.
Although his playing time with the Junior Senators was limited, as Ross noted, he became a better player and person because of the environment. What he learned on and off the ice from his teammates has helped him tremendously.
“The older guys (teammates) have been a big help,” he explained. “They helped me learn how to act like a professional on and off the ice. I learned from some of the best junior players in the league, and I picked up their habits.”
Playing against the top players in junior hockey in practice was a lesson onto itself for Ross.
“It’s a big challenge testing yourself every day against them and pushing yourself,” Ross pointed out.
Along with the learning from the players there were lessons from being in a organization like Junior Senators with an established winning tradition. In Ottawa, it’s all about the team.
“It’s a team, there are no individuals, everyone has a role and there are no shortcuts,” said Ross. “Everyone is accountable. Everyone is responsible in the defensive zone and everyone sacrifices for each other.”
Having grown as a person as well as a player, Ross is looking forward to contributing more to the Junior Senators in the future.
“I look at myself as a good all around 200-foot player,” said Ross. “I have a good feel and a good understanding of the game.”
In another way, it has certainly been an eye-opening season for the rookie. The Junior Senators captured their third consecutive Bogart Cup championship after claiming the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) Yzerman Division title during the regular season and qualified for the Canadian National Junior A Championship, the Centennial Cup.
“As a 16-year-old winning the Bogart Cup and going to the nationals was really special,” said Ross. “It was a cool experience. I won’t take it for granted.”
Odds are that won’t happen. Complacency is not in the Junior Senators’ vocabulary.