Finally, a win. And all it took was Jordon Cooke standing on his head.
Cooke made 26 saves for Kelowna, and Zach Franko scored the game-winning goal in the shootout, as the Rockets beat the Edmonton Oil Kings 2-1 in WHL action on Friday night. The win snapped a five-game losing streak and was just Kelowna’s third victory in 16 games.
The win, coincidentally, was also Cooke’s first win of the season and his first-ever win on home ice.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Cooke, 18, following his fourth start of the season. The Leduc, Alta., product joined the Rockets last season and appeared in 19 games in 2010-11, but only started five home games, going 0-for-5. This season, he’s 1-1.
“I finally got the monkey off my back this year,” continued Cooke, who was head-and-shoulders above anyone else for well-deserved first-star honours. “But you know what? We played a great game out there and I couldn’t ask more from the boys.”
Kristians Pelss, with his ninth goal of the season, scored for Edmonton (11-6-1-2), which opened Friday’s scoring at 6:45 of the first period with a power-play goal. Laurent Brossoit made 23 saves for the Oil Kings, who close out a four-game B.C. road trip tonight in Kamloops against the B.C. Division-leading Blazers.
Colton Sissons, with his ninth goal of the season, scored for Kelowna (6-11-1-1), which levelled the score at 17:47. Tonight, the Rockets visit the Vancouver Giants. The shootout, which Kelowna won 3-2, went eight rounds, with Cooke stopping six Oil King shooters, including forward Curtis Lazar of Vernon for the victory.
“(Jordon) made saves when he needed to,” said Rockets coach Ryan Huska, whose team struggled for the first 40 minutes before pushing Edmonton in the final frame. “Losing a game in the shootout is tough; your goaltender has to be good, and Jordon was that for us. So it’s nice to get back in the win column.”
Asked if he found Friday’s contest frustrating — the Rockets were 0-for-6 on the power play — Huska said no, it wasn’t the case.
“Edmonton is a fast team and I thought we checked them well,” said Huska. “I think our guys did a good job with their checking and we limited an offensive team to 27 shots. For us, that’s a step in the right direction. I thought we had a lot of guys who competed and pushed hard and found a way to win tonight. We’ve gone a long time without the results we’ve wanted, and it’s not easy; nobody has fun when you’re not winning and it wears on people, players included. So it’s nice to feel good about themselves. And now we have to push ourselves to make sure we’re building off this.”
So, what did Huska’s Edmonton counterpart think of Friday’s result? Not much.
“I didn’t think it was a great game by both teams,” said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdall. “I thought both goaltenders were excellent and I thought they played well. A shootout, well, a shootout is a shootout, but, at the end of the day, I thought the referees let us play. They were fighting to get a victory and it could have gone either way in regulation and it could have gone either way in the shootout. I didn’t think we were at our best and I expect better from our group. But we got a hard-earned point and we have to move on to Kamloops now.”
The point allowed the Oil Kings to stay within striking distance of first place in what’s proving to be a ultra-competitive Central Division. The Medicine Hat Tigers (14-5-1-1) lead the six-team loop with 30 points, but the fourth-place Oil Kings are only five points in arrears with a game in hand.
And while Edmonton is certainly off to its best start in its young history — this is the team’s fifth season — the Oil Kings are really built for next season with no less than 10 players who are currently in their 18-year-old season. By next season, those 10, assuming they all return as 19-year-olds, should form the core of a serious contender.
Nine of those 10 played on Friday, with the exception being forward Travis Ewanyk, who is out with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Most of the remaining nine were noticeable against Kelowna, such as Brossoit, defenceman Cody Corbett, Keegan Lowe and Martin Gernat plus forwards Michael St. Croix, Stephane Legault and Klarc Wilson.
“You know what? We really don’t think about (next season). We just think about our next game, and that’s (Saturday night).” said Laxdall. “But our scouting staff and general manager has done a great job of drafting players. All of our players have come up through our system, as they were either listed or drafted. We’re missing one of our top centres in Travis Ewanyk, and once we get him back, it’s only going to make us stronger. But, at the end of the day, it’s a positive outlook for this franchise, and it’s our job as coaches to build on that.”
ICE CHIPS: Kelowna’s scratches were D Jesse Lees (upper body, 3 weeks), C Spencer Main (concussion), D Mackenzie Johnston and D Tanner Moar. Edmonton’s scratches were D Ashton Sautner, C David Stephens (upper body, 2 weeks), C Travis Ewanyk (upper body, 1 month-plus), D Mason Geertsen and LW Tristan Sieben (lower body, day-to-day). . . . Edmonton was 1-for-5 on the power play.
Oil Kings 1 at Rockets 2 (SO)
KELOWNA — WHL on Friday night:
1. Edmonton, Pelss 9 (Reinhart, Wruck) 6:45 (pp)
2. Kelowna, Sissons 9 (Baillie) 17:47
Penalties — Moroz Edm, Goulbourne Kel (fighting) 2:20, Bell Kel (hooking) 5:45, Bulmer Kel (kneeing) 8:10, Pelss Edm (goaltender interference) 10:03, St. Croix Edm (tripping) 12:55, Heffley Kel (tripping) 15:25.
Penalties — Lowe Edm (kneeing) 0:25, Lazar Edm (tripping) 6:07, Peddle (cross-checking), Bell Kel (roughing) 10:23, Wilson Edm, Astles Kel (fighting) 13:04, Corbett Edm, Heffley Kel (roughing) 14:41, Sissons Kel (hooking) 16:27, McColgan Kel (interference) 16:41.
Penalties — Dech Edm (tripping) 8:36, Foster Edm (hooking) 10:02.
Penalties — None.
Kelowna wins 3-2
Kelowna (3) — Sissons, miss; Bulmer, miss, McColgan, goal; Bell, goal; Baillie, miss; Vasko, miss; Severson, miss; Franko, goal.
Edmonton (2) — Gernat, goal; Foster, miss; Pelss, miss; St. Croix, goal; Wruck, miss; Lazowski, miss; Reinhart, miss; Lazar, miss.
Shots on goal by
Edmonton 10 9 5 3 —27
Kelowna 5 6 11 2 —24
Goal — Edmonton: Brossoit (L, 10-6-1-1); Kelowna: Cooke (W, 1-1-1-1).
Power plays (goals-chances) — Edmonton: 1-5; Kelowna: 0-4.
Referees — Jonathan Langille, Colby Smith. Linesmen — Matt Thurston, Nathan Van Oosten.
Attendance — 6,184.