Kelowna goalie Jordon Cooke made 61 saves in Friday's overtime loss to Portland (photo: Kelowna Rockets)PORTLAND, Ore. — Goaltender Jordon Cooke and the Kelowna Rockets were 5:10 away from stealing Game 3 of the WHL’s Western Conference final against the Portland Winterhawks.
But after Cooke delivered a scintillating performance for 57 minutes Tuesday, the bounces suddenly went against him late as Portland scored twice in the last three minutes of regulation to force overtime, then won on a Taylor Leier shot that caromed in off a jersey 10 minutes into the extra period.
Portland captured a 4-3 decision, and now leads the series 2-1, and the Rockets are left wondering how they can combat a Winterhawks onslaught that brought 65 shots on goal in 70 minutes.
Cooke, an overager in his fourth WHL season, cobbled together several weeks worth of highlight-reel saves in a single night, but unfortunately became the sidenote to the Winterhawks’ series-shifting comeback when all was said and done.
“Jordon was great, if we would have won that game it would’ve been a steal,” said Kelowna coach Ryan Huska. “He played really well and kept us in for as long as he could. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to hold them off toward the end of the third period.”
Ryan Olsen’s goal put the Rockets up 3-1 with 5:10 left in the third, and some fans in the crowd of 9,259 at the Moda Center started to head for the exits. It turned out to be a bad choice.
“When it got to 3-1 most teams would let it get the wind out of their sails,” said Portland’s Brendan Leipsic, who scored the game-tying goal with 1:18 remaining in regulation. “We knew we were going to get our chances and we waited it out.
“We’ve been in this position before with a goalie getting hot on us, but we’re a veteran team and we stuck with it.”
Despite turning in what Portland goalie Corbin Boes called “one of the best performances I’ve ever seen,” Cooke couldn’t hide his disappointment in the aftermath.
“It’s unfortunate, when you’re up 3-1 against them and you eventually lose in overtime,” said Cooke. “It’s deflating and it sucks.”
Oliver Bjorkstrand’s second goal of the game came on the power play with 2:59 left in the third and the net empty for a six-on-four situation. His weak nudge toward the net hit a body and squeezed through Cooke’s pads.
On the winner, Leier wheeled around from about 45 feet out and fired a blind shot through traffic. The puck hit Rockets defenceman Colten Marin in the sleeve and fluttered into the net. A video review was needed to confirm that it hadn’t hit a high stick of a Winterhawk in front, and a delirious celebration resumed after a short break.
“I like how our players handled it when we got down 3-1,” said Winterhawks coach Mike Johnston. “We knew we were getting our chances, and once the first one fell the crowd was so into the game it was a big boost. I almost thought we were going to win in regulation there.”
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