Princeton Posse rookie defenceman Chase Cooke does his best to hold off a Kamloops Storm player from getting to the puck.
Robert Marsh photo
Chase Cooke grew up watching the Merritt Centennials in the B.C. Hockey League.
The 16-year-old Princeton Posse rookie remembers being on the ice with them constantly as a kid. When the opportunity came for Cooke to suit up in a BCHL game with the Centennials, it was an exciting moment.
“I always idolized them in a way. It’s extra special to play with them now. A very proud moment for me,” says Cooke, who has dressed in three games as an affiliate player.
Cooke, a defenceman, says the big thing he notices about the BCHL is the speed and skill is “a huge jump from the KI.”
“The players are so much faster, so much more skilled,” says Cooke, who practices with the Centennials, while playing for the Posse. “It’s way more exhilarating to play in. It’s fun.”
In the two games he played, Cooke felt he was able to keep up. He feels he has been able to fit in and contribute. Cooke credits his experience playing for the Posse in helping him earn the chance with the Centennials. He says the coaching staff has helped him develop his game. He’s loving his time with the Posse, where he is getting lots of ice time as Posse coach-GM Mark McNaughton is putting him in every situation.
“He’s a quality offensive talent,” says McNaughton. “He understands the game as an offensive team man. Gets up and down the ice when needed. On the defensive end, he’s got so much speed, is a smart player, a very aggressive D-man. A guy who we can really use in every situation.”
The Posse have allowed Cooke to make mistakes, but he’s getting the opportunities to move on to the next level right away. Along with getting big icetime, the Posse encourage their players to volunteer in the community and Cooke says that is helping him become a more rounded person.
Playing in the KIJHL has been a pleasant surprise for the Merritt native.
“A very competitive league,” he says. “It’s definitely tougher playing with bigger and older, stronger players, which helps bring a challenge, but a challenge I enjoy. It’s a tough league to play in for sure. It’s a tough schedule.”
The biggest adjustment the five-foot-seven, 165 pound defenceman has had to make is keeping his head up.
“Definitely a big thing was being able to survey the ice while making sure that someone is not trying to take my head off,” he says. “I have definitely been able to develop my calmness with the puck and my puck movement skills have improved a lot.”
Cooke has also grown from role models such as captain Noah Brusse, who recently was called up by the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. Brusse, along with Josh Olson have been mentoring him.
McNaughton has liked Cooke’s play through the first half, saying the expectations for a player his age are just to be able to dip his toe in the league. With Cooke it’s different. Their expectations have been to see him excel right away. McNaughton credits Cooke’s success to two things – drive and work ethic.
“I think he’s a kid who really has that pro will to make sure he can do more,” says McNaughton. “What I have really seen with him is that no matter what the workload is, he is always looking to add to it. I don’t think we even scratched the surface of what he is capable of.”
Cooke’s work ethic is contagious on the Posse. Teammates see what he does and it pushes them to do better. Because of that, McNaughton says anytime you get to add a quality player like him, it certainly helps their program.
As for Cooke practicing with the Centennials, McNaughton says it’s great.
“Any time guys get to experience the next level, that helps them when they get up to it full time,” he says. “They know what to expect. They know what the practices are like. They know the game speed.”