By Larry Fisher
The Daily Courier
Coaches always drum up the importance of “healthy competition” amongst players.
Kelowna Rockets goaltenders Adam Brown and Jordon Cooke are certainly staging that, much to the delight of head coach Ryan Huska.
Less than 24 hours after Brown stole two points with 36 saves in Vancouver, Cooke upstaged Kelowna's veteran starter by stopping 42 shots for a 3-2 shootout victory in Everett over the host Silvertips on Sunday evening. Thanks to their platooning efforts, the Rockets wrapped up their six-game WHL road trip with four wins, the latter two in light of being outshot by a combined 80-38.
“We've gone back and forth with our goaltenders (on this trip) and I think they've got a little friendly competition going on because, over the last few games in particular, they have both been our best players,” Huska said after Sunday's win, in which Kelowna was outshot 41-23 by the Silvertips, including 18-8 in the first period. “Without a doubt, Jordon was our best player tonight. If he doesn't make some of the saves that he made, especially earlier . . . they had a lot of opportunities early in the game, but Jordon was there for his teammates. I was happy to see him get a shootout win; he played so well he deserved this win tonight.”
Cooke, the game's first star, made 39 saves through regulation and overtime, then denied all three Everett shooters in the tiebreaker. Zach Franko scored the shootout winner, firing low blocker-side on Austin Lotz for the lone goal of the extra session.
Colton Sissons, with his team-leading 23rd goal of the season, to open the scoring in the first period, and Myles Bell, with his ninth, on a second-period power play to give Kelowna a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes, supplied the other offence for the sixth-place Rockets (19-21-2-3).
Ryan Harrison, a Kelowna native, with his 11th, to even the score 1-1 in the first, and Reid Petryk, with his eighth, tallied in the third period to force overtime, replied for the last-place Silvertips (8-27-1-8). Lotz had 20 saves, plus a stop on Bell in the shootout.
Bell, for his part, has nine points in 10 games since returning from an undisclosed lower-body injury that sidelined him for more than a month before Christmas. An early-season acquisition from Regina, the 18-year-old blue-liner has 23 points in 29 games with Kelowna, on nine goals and 14 assists.
“He's generating some on the power play for us now,” Huska said of Bell. “He's got a great shot and the challenge for Myles is to make sure he's using it all the time and not really looking for too much else. He got a good shot away again tonight and it found its way into the back of the net.”
With a little puck-luck in Portland, the place of Kelowna's two recent losses, the Rockets could have been perfect away from home. But Huska was quick to note his team wasn't perfect overall and everything balanced out.
“It's funny. I felt like we probably should've won the first two games and probably should've lost the last two, but sometimes that's the way the game works,” said Huska, whose squad dropped 4-2 and 2-1 decisions in Portland after opening the trip last weekend with two wins in Victoria, 5-2 and 4-3 in a shootout.
Kelowna now returns home to host Everett on Wednesday night at Prospera Place. Puck drop is 7 p.m.
“It was some tougher travel on this trip and coming home on a winning note is a good thing for us,” Huska said. Hopefully we can get our legs underneath us and get going for Wednesday at home. We need to have some good efforts at home down the stretch and that's something we have to look forward to for Wednesday night.”