Each time Jordon Cooke gets the start in goal for the Kelowna Rockets, the 20-year-old netminder genuinely believes he has the best seat in the house.
On top of watching the battle unfold right in front of his eyes, the Leduc, Alta. native especially relishes those moments when he’s the one in the eye of the storm.
“I love it because as a goalie, you’re a game-changer,” Cooke said. “A game can be won or lost because of you…I know there’s a lot of added pressure with that, but for me that’s exciting. It’s what I live for when I play.”
Cooke’s affinity for pressure-packed situations is one big reason the 5-foot-10, 177-pound stopper has evolved into one of the Western Hockey League’s premier goaltenders.
Last season, his third in the WHL, Cooke posted 37 wins and a 2.53 goals against average, while racking up a franchise-record 20 consecutive wins.
Head coach Ryan Huska said the Rockets will look for Cooke to be a reliable and stabilizing force in his final season of major junior hockey.
“We need him to be the rock back there for us, so when there are nights, especially early in the year when we might not be playing that well, we need him to be at his very best,” said Huska. “We expect him to be consistent with his games and to be a guy who can win us the odd game this year. With his background now and the experience he’s had, we think he’s more than capable of doing that.”
Still, as much as Cooke heads into the season as the veteran incumbent between the pipes, he also understands the unpredictable nature of goaltending.
With a capable backup, Jackson Whistle, waiting in the wings, Cooke knows solid, consistent play is a must if he plans on remaining in the driver’s seat.
“Whoever’s playing well is going to start, hockey is all about getting the wins,” Cooke said. “Jackson and I know that, we’re going to push each other, so it makes for good competition. Right now I’m just going to take it a game at a time, look to get off to a good start and go from there.”
Coming off a franchise record 52-win season and a solid performance from a personal perspective, it’s little surprise Cooke is setting both his and the team’s sights even higher in 2013-14.
“My expectations are huge, coming off a good year both with the team and personally, I’m looking to build off that,” he said. “I had an unbelievable experience last year with my teammates, and now we’re just looking to have another really good season. We got on our feet after a couple of sluggish years, we’ve got a great group of guys here, so I’m excited about what we’re capable of this season.”
Rocket Shots…The Rockets open the WHL regular season Friday night in Kamloops against the Blazers. The teams will meet for a rematch Saturday night at Prospera Place…C Ryan Olsen returned to the Rockets this week from the camp of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets…LW Myles Bell and D Damon Severson remain with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.