VANCOUVER, B.C – It takes an entire roster of committed, determined, and skilled players to bring a team to new heights and accomplishments. The UBC Thunderbirds are a team that’s achieving goals never before seen in the programs history. The 23-4-1 Thunderbirds are on a playoff bye week as they await a Canada West semifinals opponent next weekend.
The week away from competitive hockey allows Coach Graham Thomas and his assistants time to prepare and game plan for the semifinals. Players get extra practice, recovery time from injuries, and team bonding at the beach.
Rookie forward, Jaedon Cooke is one player who is glad to be injury free and ready for a long playoff run. On Friday, January 27, Cooke, was hit from behind during the first period vs Lethbridge. Pronghorns forward, Aislinn Kooistra, should have been ejected for her reckless and dangerous hit. Cooke was taken to the hospital for a neck injury. An MRI scan would later clear Cooke. She returned to play on Friday, February 10 vs Mount Royal.
“I was just super excited to come back,” said Cooke. “It feels like forever when you miss a weekend for anything, especially from an injury. It was really exciting to be back, and to play with the girls again. It was a lot of fun.”
The Souris, Manitoba native, has had an unfortunate run of injuries. Cooke’s last season was derailed in December when she required re-constructive surgery on her shoulder. This season she has dealt with concussions. The Thunderbirds are a close-knit family and everyone was quiet worried when Cooke went into the boards.
“Yeah, that was definitely scary,” said Thomas. “You never want to see a player carted away to the hospital. We were worried about her. She seems to be doing well now.”
The way that particular game was called was not safe for players on both teams. If players are getting hit in the head, checked from behind, elbowed, someone needs to be tossed. It doesn’t matter which team, but a tone needs to be set by those in charge. Yes, there is no hitting in women’s hockey, but the battle is still there, and players can get seriously hurt.
“Lots of times when people talk about women’s hockey, they think that it’s not aggressive because it’s women’s hockey,” said Cooke. “If you watch a game, you can see that even though we don’t have the big hits, there’s a lot of aggression all the time. They compete to win, and it definitely shows on the ice.”
Cooke has been a ray of sunshine for the Thunderbirds. She’s played 19 games in her inaugural season. She has a strong compete level, great spirit, and she has been a terrific addition to the Thunderbirds penalty killing.
“She brings a lot of leadership in her own ways,” said Thomas. “She’s fully bought in. She’s extremely bright as a person; her high school average was ninety-nine percent. It makes a big difference in so many ways. She has a good moral compass. Good character, brings a ton of energy. She’s very competitive and extremely loud. She will cheer on her teammates no matter how she’s playing or what’s going in a game. She’s team first, very committed, dedicated, and eager in wanting to learn.”
When UBC takes to the ice to Feb 24 – 26 you might have trouble tracking number 98. Jaedon Cooke is the quickest player on the Thunderbirds. She’s a speed burner on skates that gets in on the fore-check, moves the puck, and plays sound defensively. Her scoring will eventually come, and for now Coach Thomas is pleased with her game.
“She’s the fastest player on the team, and we have a pretty fast team. Her speed is incredible. She’s not been in an offensive role, but that doesn’t mean she can’t contribute down the line. She’s finding a role on the PK and contributing, using her skills. She is going to be a good five-year player for us as she gets older.”
The Thunderbirds have an excellent ability of being able to get the best out of each and every player. That makes them a top Canada West contender as they strive to make further history.