Cooke stellar as Rockets rock Hawks
Oct 4, 2013 / 10:26 pm
Give round one of the 'Battle of the Titans' to Jordon Cooke and the Kelowna Rockets.
The Rockets and Portland have been picked by many to battle for the brass ring in the league's Western Conference - and to that end Friday's game did not disappoint.
Cooke was spectacular from start to finish blocking 42 shots leading the Rockets to a 6-2 victory over the reigning Western Hockey League champion Portland Winterhawks.
Offensively Myles Bell and rookie Nick Merkley each scored twice for the Rockets. Riley Stadel and Colton Heffley also scored while Tyson Baillie chipped in with three assists.
"It was two good teams going at it so you knew that was going to happen," says Cooke of his busy night.
"When there are two teams competing for that top spot and have that ranking, that's going to be the outcome. Tonight we stuck with our game plan and got the win."
Portland hit the scoreboard first when Alex Schoenborn out-muscled Madison Bowey for position in the offensive zone and threw a wrist shot on net that alluded Cooke.
Bell got that one back five minutes later when he roofed a wrist shot from the right circle past a stunned Brendan Burke.
Bell would put the Rockets up for good in the middle frame gathering a rebound off Bowey's point shot and calmly depositing a shot under Burke.
Holding on to a slim 2-1 lead Stadel dropped the gloves with Winterhawks tough guy Steven Allridge. Stadel gave up five inches and nearly 40 pounds but stood toe-to-toe with the 6'3" forward.
"Riley's fight I would agree with. He stepped out of his comfort zone and he was hit hard by that guy earlier in the period and it's good for him to stand up for himself like that," says Rockets head coach Ryan Huska.
"The other thing was probably the penalty kill and the five-on-three. Killing that off allowed us to get going again and it was important for us."
Moments after the penalty kill and the fight Merkley scored his what proved to be the winner, one-timing a centering pass from Baillie.
The Winterhawks came out strong in the third but again Cooke stood his ground making several key saves before Stadel put the game away midway through the final period wiring a slapshot from the left faceoff circle on a Rockets power-play.
"They are a great team and we knew they were going to come out and try and bang away at it," added Cooke.
"In the final minutes we blocked a lot of shots and kept the puck out of our net."
Despite the lopsided score Huska says it didn't feel like a 6-2 game.
He says the team still has a lot of room for improvement.
"There is still a lot we have to work on as a group. When Portland turned it up I felt we really struggled in our own zone," says Huska.
"There were also a lot of positives tonight and things we can continue to build on."
The Rockets won't have long to savour this victory.
The two teams get back at it again Saturday night at Prospera Place.
"It's easy just to be satisfied with one but when you have a very good team in here you want to be able to push for that second game," says Huska.
"We're looking forward to seeing how our group comes out."
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