With the two most potent offences in the Western Hockey League about to go toe-to-toe, there won’t be much downtime for the men between the posts in the Western Conference final.
A pair of scoring machines, the Portland Winterhawks topped the league in goals during the regular season with 338, while the Kelowna Rockets were next at 310.
In the post season, the teams have been averaging better than 35 shots per game each, another omen that both netminders are likely in for a busy series.
Still, Kelowna’s Jordon Cooke and Portland’s Brendan Burke wouldn’t have it any other way, as the WHL’s top two teams square off Friday night in Game 1 at Prospera Place.
“There’s a lot of offence on their side, so I’m sure I’ll be seeing more shots than I’ve been getting,” said Cooke, 20. “In saying that, as a goalie you like to be busy, it keeps you aware and more into the game. It’s good, I think both of us are going to see a lot of action in this series.”
The two goaltenders have similar numbers in the playoffs with 8-1 records—Cooke has a 2.34 goals against average and a save percentage of 92.9, while Burke’s stats sit at 2.01 and 92.3.
Cooke is also coming off a stellar regular season, as he won a career-high 39 games.
Numbers aside, head coach Ryan Huska said Cooke’s talent, experience and poise will all be counted on in the WHL semifinal.
“I feel like we have one of the best goaltenders in the league,” Huska said. “The guys have a lot of confidence playing in front of him, he led the way for us all season and we know he’s going to bring his best games for us.
“(Burke) is a tall goaltender and has good ability,” added Huska, “and I’m sure they feel the same way about him as we do about Jordon.”
While Cooke has been Kelowna’s No. 1 man the last two years, Burke, 19, stepped into the Hawks’ starting role this season, replacing the departed Mac Carruth, who led Portland to the WHL title last season.
Burke is excited to take on the challenge of facing the CHL’s top-ranked club.
“They’re a skilled team that can score, the numbers speak for themselves,” Burke said of the Rockets. “I think it’s a really good matchup and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
As for the keys to the Western Conference final, Burke points to special teams and the ability to win on the road.
“I think a major part is going to be whose penalty kill and power play performs better, because both teams are so good offensively,” said Burke. “I also look at competing away from home and playing well in the other team’s building. Whoever can steal a game or two on the road should have the edge.”
Meanwhile, the first 5,000 fans into Prospera Place on Friday night will receive special Rally Towels, thanks to sponsors Save On Foods, Cooper’s Foods, Bark ‘n Fly Doggie Daycare and Granite Transformations.
Fans are also encouraged to wear white to support the Rockets Playoff Whiteout. Kelowna Firefighters will be at the rink selling Playoff Whiteout T-shirts for $5 with all proceeds to the Firefighters charitable programs.
Game 2 goes Saturday at Prospera Place at 7:05 p.m.