One week ago, Bradley Cooper was traded by the Spruce Kings. After playing in just 23 games over two seasons with the Kings, the goalie would be given much more opportunity on a roster that needed a strong tender. Enter in the Vernon Vipers.
The team's mostly relied on rookie goalie Aidan Porter thus far, who's posted an 8-13 record with 3 shutouts this season. When Cooper joined the team, he had just one shutout less than Porter, a higher save percentage, and a lower goals against average.
On Wednesday night, Cooper got his first chance to show the Vipers why he may just be their new starter. He found himself back on the ice at the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena for a tough test against not only his former team, but also the best team in the BCHL, the Prince George Spruce Kings.
Between Cooper and his former goaltending partner, Logan Neaton, all 40 shots were turned away in the first two periods.
"For me, it was a cool experience," Neaton explained post-game, "me and Brad got along really well, we were great goalie partners...Junior hockey's about development and moving on into the next steps of your life as a hockey player and as a person. For him that was his best decision, he's going to go there, he's going to play more, he's going to develop, and that's going to help him for the future. He had to do what was best for him."
Another one of Cooper's good friends would strike in the final frame. Seven minutes and twenty-two seconds into the third, Dustin Manz finally broke the seal. A wrister from the faceoff circle flew through a screen and snuck past Cooper's Spruce Kings-coloured pads. The sound of the puck off the back post was confirmation for Kings fans that after 42 minutes of shutout hockey, the Kings were up.
The insurance marker would come in the final two minutes, with Cooper pulled. Ben Brar let one fly from well-beyond the offensive zone for his team-leading 21st goal of the season. Good thing too, because in the last minute, a quick shot off the faceoff would settle on the Kings goalline, before Vernon's Teddy Wooding would bat it in, breaking Neaton's shutout bid.
The heartbreaker made it 2-1, which was good enough for a Kings victory. Neaton and Cooper both saved 31 out of 32 shots and earned second and third stars respectively. The win improves the Kings to 7-2 at home since November 2nd and 9-2 against Interior Division opponents this season.
The Kings will look to make it three in a row this weekend when the Nanaimo Clippers come to town for a 7pm puck drop at the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.
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