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Rockets' Cooke and Merkley WHL award finalists
In a record-setting season where team accomplishments were front and centre, the Kelowna Rockets also had their share of notable individual performances.
On Thursday in Kelowna, four members of the Rockets were recognized as the WHL announced its Western Conference award nominees and all-star teams.
Goaltender Jordon Cooke was named as a finalist for the WHL's goaltender of the year award, while Nick Merkley is the Western Conference selection as the league's rookie of the year.
In addition, Cooke was named a Western Conference first team all-star, while Rockets' defencemen Damon Severson and Madison Bowey were named to the second all-star team.
"For them personally, I think it's a great honour that people around our league show respect for what they did over the course of our regular season," said Rockets' head coach Ryan Huska. "For us, as a group, whenever you get a player recognized they way they were, I think it's great four our program that we have a small piece in developing some pretty good hockey players."
Cooke, 20, who was named the Rockets' team MVP on Sunday, enjoyed his best WHL season between the pipes for Kelowna, winning a career-high 39 games and posting a 2.28 goals against average. In addition to compiling some impressive statistical numbers, Huska said Cooke was a stabilizing and reliable commodity for the club all season long.
"Whenever we had an important game or something was on the line, Jordon brought his best to the table. When we needed a save, he'd make that save…when we needed a win, he'd get that win. He was our key guy all year and it's great he's been recognized by people in our Western Conference, for the work he's put in over the years."
Merkley, a product of Calgary, tied a franchise record for goals by a 16-year-old player with 25. His 58 points was third among WHL rookies, but tops among all 1997-born players.
"I think he's a special young man," Huska said of Merkley. "We started the year with him on the third, fourth line, he didn't get much power play time, but he kept pushing us to get more. When we gave him more we saw the special type of player he could be. He's able to control the game with pace he plays at, but he also sees the ice differently the many players that I've been around. He's going to be a special player and we're thrilled for him."
Severson and Bowey were both among the top offensive defencemen in the WHL during the regular season. Severson, 19, had 16 goals and 61 points, while Bowey, 18, scored a club-record 21 times and added 39 assists.
The Rockets (57-11-0-4) were also recognized for the first-place overall finish in 2013-14 and as winners of the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy.
The Rockets and Tri-City Americans open their best-of-seven WHL Western Conference quarterfinal series Saturday night at Prospera Place.
The following is the complete list of WHL award finalists and all-stars:
• WHL Rookie of the Year, Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Nikita Scherbak (Moscow, Russia), Saskatoon Blades
Western Conference – Nick Merkley (Calgary, AB), Kelowna Rockets
• WHL Goaltender of the Year, Del Wilson Trophy
Eastern Conference – Tristan Jarry (Delta, BC), Edmonton Oil Kings
Western Conference – Jordon Cooke (Leduc, AB), Kelowna Rockets
• WHL Defenceman of the Year, Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Josh Morrissey (Calgary, AB), Prince Albert Raiders
Western Conference – Derrick Pouliot (Weyburn, SK), Portland Winterhawks
• WHL Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year, Brad Hornung Trophy
Eastern Conference – Sam Reinhart (Vancouver, BC), Kootenay Ice
Western Conference – Mitch Holmberg (Sherwood Park, AB), Spokane Chiefs
• WHL Scholastic Player of the Year, Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Nelson Nogier (Saskatoon, SK) Saskatoon Blades
Western Conference – Dominic Turgeon (Cherry Hills, CO) Portland Winterhawks
• WHL Coach of the Year, Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Shaun Clouston, Medicine Hat Tigers
Western Conference – Dave Lowry, Victoria Royals
• WHL Executive of the Year, Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Mike Moore, Calgary Hitmen
Western Conference – Cam Hope, Victoria Royals
• WHL Humanitarian of the Year, Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Sam Fioretti (Calgary, AB) Moose Jaw Warriors
Western Conference – Mitch Topping (Red Deer, AB) Tri City Americans
• WHL Marketing / Business Award
Eastern Conference – Regina Pats
Western Conference – Seattle Thunderbirds
• WHL Regular Season Champions, Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy
• WHL Top Scorer – Bob Clarke Trophy
Mitch Holmberg (Sherwood Park, AB), Spokane Chiefs
WHL WESTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STAR TEAMS
Goaltender – Jordon Cooke (Leduc, AB), Kelowna Rockets
Defenceman – Derrick Pouliot (Weyburn, SK), Portland Winterhawks
Defenceman – Shea Theodore (Aldergrove, BC), Seattle Thunderbirds
Forward – Nicolas Petan (Delta, BC), Portland Winterhawks *
Forward – Mitch Holmberg (Sherwood Park, AB), Spokane Chiefs *
Forward – Oliver Bjorkstrand (Herning, Denmark), Portland Winterhawks
Goaltender – Eric Comrie (Edmonton, AB), Tri-City Americans
Defenceman – Damon Severson (Melville, SK), Kelowna Rockets
Defenceman – Madison Bowey (Winnipeg, MB), Kelowna Rockets
Forward – Joshua Winquist (St. Albert, AB), Everett Silvertips
Forward – Todd Fiddler (Meadow Lake, SK), Prince George Cougars
Forward – Mike Aviani (North Vancouver, BC), Spokane Chiefs
WHL EASTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STAR TEAMS
Goaltender – Tristan Jarry (Delta, BC), Edmonton Oil Kings
Defenceman – Josh Morrissey (Calgary, AB), Prince Albert Raiders
Defenceman – Ryan Pulock (Grandview, MB) Brandon Wheat Kings
Forward – Sam Reinhart (Vancouver, BC), Kootenay Ice *
Forward – Leon Draisaitl (Cologne, Germany), Prince Albert Raiders
Forward – Curtis Lazar (Vernon, BC), Edmonton Oil Kings
Goaltender – Patrik Bartosak (Koprivnice, CZR), Red Deer Rebels
Defenceman – Griffin Reinhart (West Vancouver, BC), Edmonton Oil Kings
Defenceman – Julius Honka (Jyvaskyla, Finland), Swift Current Broncos
Forward – Curtis Valk (Medicine Hat, AB), Medicine Hat Tigers
Forward – Jaedon Descheneau (Edmonton, AB), Kootenay
Forward – Chandler Stephenson (Saskatoon, SK), Regina