- Jordon Cooke was named the Kelowna Rockets regular season MVP. The 20 year-old is showing in the 2014 playoffs exactly why. Cooke made no less than six clutch saves in helping his team earn a 6-3 win Saturday night over the Seattle Thunderbirds and in the process has his team up two games to none in a best of seven Western Conference semi final series. Cooke made 16 saves in the first period alone in arguably the Rockets worst period of the series and the T-Birds best. Fortunately, because of Cooke's strong play, the home team was able to skate to the dressing room in a 2-2 tie.
- Cooke's best saves came against T-Birds forward Sam McKechnie, not once but twice. Cooke made a tremendous stop off the 19 year-old in the first period and then a breakaway save later in the game. The Leduc Alberta resident also stopped 16 year-old Seattle forward Mathew Barzal on a great scoring chance early in the third period. Again, timely saves by Cooke has been the story of his season, not only in the regular season but now in the playoffs. Simply put, Cooke has been better than Seattle goaltender Taran Kozun and is a big reason why the series is slanted in Kelowna'a favour.
- Kozun was better in game two than he was in a game one 6-2 loss. The Seattle goaltender made some solid stops and didn't receive much puck luck in Saturday's setback. The Rourke Chartier goal to make the score 5-2 would be a good example of that. But Kozun hasn't been lights out and his numbers indicate that. In the first two games of this series the 19 year-old has a goals against average of 5.50 and a save percentage of .831. Cooke's numbers in the first two games include a goals against average of 2.50 and a save percentage of .922.
- I thought the T-Birds played a real good game. They were clearly the better team in the first period and may have had the slight edge in the third. But that said, they still lost at the end of the night which must be deflating.
- Riley Stadel forgot how to celebrate after opening the scoring eight minutes into the game. Stadel went hard to the net on a two-on-one with Carter Rigby and scored his first career playoff goal. No celebration for Stadel though. It was his first in 42 games.
- A solid game for Carter Rigby. A two assists effort and physical play contributed to a great effort by the 19 year-old forward. Rigby realizes that if he wants ice time he has to play a physical game. By his comments on our post game show, my feeling is he doesn't believe he needs to be as physical to be a force on the ice. Maybe I am reading him wrong? Honestly, if he doesn't use that large frame to his advantage he just isn't anywhere near the player he needs to be at this level. I like the fact he is following the lead of Coach Huska though. Rigby needs to do what is best for the team. When the Rockets won a WHL championship in 2009, Brandon McMillan had to play defence instead of forward. Did he like the move back to the blue line? Probably not, but he was willing to do whatever it took to win. Did it hurt McMillan's development in the long run? The dude is playing in the NHL with the Phoenix Coyotes.
- Nick Merkley helped the Rockets to a 2-0 lead courtesy of his first career WHL playoff goal. Merkley was set up wonderfully on a back door pass from captain Madison Bowey. Merkley now has a goal and 12 assists in 14 career playoff games.
- Alexander Delnov loves Kelowna. The T-Birds forward has four goals at Prospera Place this season. The Russian had two goals in two stops in Kelowna during the regular season and scored once in game one and once in game two.
- The T-Birds sat out 19 year-old Jaimen Yakubowski, who apparently was injured in game one. In his place the coaches elected to go with 16 year-old Lane Pederson who I thought had a solid game. At the end of the night he was a -2 but created some good things in the offensive zone.
- The Rockets are keying on T-Birds d-man Shea Theodore and it is paying off. The T-Birds leading scorer during the regular season is being bumped every time he touches the puck and that extra attention to physical play on him will pay off over the course of a playoff series. While Theodore was better than he was in game one, the Anaheim Ducks first rounder has just one assist.
- The biggest surprise for me in the first two games is the Rockets physical play. I thought the T-Birds would dictate the physical play but the home team has responded in a big way. Don't get me wrong, the T-Birds are playing physical but the Rockets are giving as much as they are receiving. The T-Birds pushed around the Rockets in last years playoff series but that hasn't been the case in this best of seven.
- For the Rockets to have success in the next two games in this series, two players will have to find their name prominently on the score sheet. Tyson Baillie has no points in this series and 20 year-old Marek Tvrdon has just a secondary assist.
- Regina Pats GM Chad Lang took in the game.
- Former T-Birds head coach Rob Sumner was also spotted in the press box. Sumner is a scout with the NHL's Calgary Flames.
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Cooke carrying strong play into playoffs
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