Jordon Cooke did everything humanly possible for his Kelowna Rockets.
But 61 saves by the 20-year-old netminder still wasn’t enough, as the Portland Winterhawks downed the Rockets 4-3 in overtime Tuesday in Game 3 of the WHL’s Western Conference final.
Taylor Leier scored at 10:00 of the extra frame to push the hometown Winterhawks to victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Rockets looked to be on the verge of taking Game 3, but Portland rallied with two late third-period goals to tie the game and force overtime.
A goal by Ryan Olsen staked Kelowna to a 3-1 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the third. But the Hawks responded with goals by Oliver Bjorkstrand at 17:01 and Brendan Leipsic at 18:42—the equalizer with the Portland net empty for an extra attacker—to push the game into extra time.
Midway through the first overtime period, Leier’s shot from just inside the Kelowna blueline beat Cooke through a screen to complete the Portland comeback.
Rockets’ assistant coach Dan Lambert, whose club was outshot 65-33, was disappointed Jordon Cooke’s brilliant effort between the pipes didn’t yield a better result against the defending WHL champs.
“(Jordon) was fantastic, he was the only reason we had an opportunity to win this game,” Lambert told AM 1150’s Regan Bartel. “We had a two-goal lead with just a few minutes left in the game and they just kept pressing and we just couldn’t get our bearings…we have to better defensively. I thought we gave them way too much time and space and respect, they were clearly the better team. But yet after 60 miniutes we still had an opportunity to win the game, and obviously that’s because of Jordon Cooke.”
Defencemen scored both of the Rockets’ goals, as Riley Stadel opened the scoring 2:22 into the first, while Cole Martin notched his first goal of the season to give Kelowna a 2-1 lead at 6:39 of the second period.
Game 4 of the WHL semifinal goes Wednesday night in Portland. Game 5 will be played Friday night, 7:05 at Prospera Place.