Cooking up some offence
Brice Cooke didn’t take long to make his presence felt with the Niagara IceDogs.
Eight minutes into his first Ontario Hockey League exhibition game, the 17-year-old rookie had already scored twice as the IceDogs eventually dropped a 4-3 decision in a shootout in Oshawa last week.
“It’s good to get those off your back, especially that first one, it’s a lot of pressure,” Cooke said. “It’s good to start off the year that way.”
Cooke has quickly impressed the coaching staff.
“Brice has fit in right away,” IceDogs assistant coach Sean Teakle said. “We kind of knew what we were going to get but he’s exceeded expectations. The first game he scored those two goals. We knew he was a smart hockey player and he’s grasped our systems real quickly and he’s been real adaptable.
“We’ve been really pleased with him so far.”
Cooke has been satisfied how his first weeks in the OHL have unfolded.
“It’s been such a great experience so far just being with the guys and playing hockey again after being off for so long has been so great to play game and be practising,” he said. “Just getting the pace back because we’ve been off for so long. Just getting in that game-ready mind set will be huge.”
Cooke, a native of Orangeville, was selected by the IceDogs in the second round (33rd overall) of the 2020 OHL draft and had his rookie season wiped out by the COVID pandemic.
“It was difficult, especially because you couldn’t get ice anywhere. It’s not like basketball where you could just go outside,” he said. “We made the most out of it, getting out once of twice a week and doing a lot of off-ice training.
“It was pretty different. We got drafted and a lot of time off. It was a pretty unique experience but it’s good to get here now.”
Cooke has been impressed with the talent of the young forwards Niagara has accumulated.
“It’s definitely been a really fast pace with all the guys here,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of spots available so everyone is working really hard to try and impress. It’s been very competitive and a lot of fun.”
Cooke also realizes he needs to become a well-rounded player.
“Whatever they need me to do. I’m pretty comfortable doing whatever they need. I’m a young guy still trying to learn the ropes and just do my job and do what I’m good at and things will sort themselves out.”
Teakle feels Cooke will be able to fill a variety of roles.
“You look at Cookie and he’s a guy that can play up and down our lineup now,” he said. “When we do have veterans out or we’re looking to fill a hole, he’s one of those guys we can plug into those holes and I don’t think you’re going to have a huge drop off. He can definitely chip in offensively but he also does the little things really well.”
Teakle said with so many talented forwards in camp, it has created a good atmosphere of competition.
“Those guys push each other every day and we can see already in the first week they are getting better,” he said. “Having so many bodies and having them push the guys in front of them, it’s going to make them better players.”
The IceDogs are in Guelph Friday and home to the Storm Saturday at 7 p.m. as exhibition play continues. Niagara’s pre-season schedule wraps up Friday, Oct. 1 at Kitchener and Saturday, Oct. 2 at home versus Kitchener.
The regular season begins Thursday, Oct. 7 in Barrie where former IceDogs coach Marty Williamson is now the bench boss. Niagara’s home opener is Saturday, Oct. 9 versus Oshawa.
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