Sports

Cooke a quick study for Huskies

Sienna Cooke had an oustanding first season with the Saint Mary’s Huskies, earning the Atlantic University Sport conference rookie of the year award. The 18-year-old spent the previous three years as part of the Langley Secondary hockey academy. - Nick Pearce/SMU Huskies
Sienna Cooke had an oustanding first season with the Saint Mary’s Huskies, earning the Atlantic University Sport conference rookie of the year award. The 18-year-old spent the previous three years as part of the Langley Secondary hockey academy.
— image credit: Nick Pearce/SMU Huskies

In the future, Sienna Cooke plans on following in her father’s footsteps and stopping criminals, but for the time being, she is content on stopping hockey pucks.

And judging by her freshman season for the Saint Mary’s Huskies women’s ice hockey team, she has done a fine job of that so far.

Not too bad considering when she send out a highlight DVD for prospective coaches, the Huskies’ coaching staff, initially tossed hers aside.

“We initially were waiting on another goalie, but then I decided to take a look,” admitted coach St. Mary’s coach Chris Larade.

After being sold on what he saw, a scholarship offer was extended and Cooke made the move from Surrey to Halifax.

“We didn’t really know what to expect as far as how she would adjust to our level,” Larade said.

And Cooke came in and put together a spectacular freshman season.

“She came in and single-handedly won four or five games for us and kept us in all the games,” Larade said.

“Her mental toughness and poise in the nets was contagious for our group, which made it easier for them to play in front of her.”

Cooke, an 18-year-old who graduated from Langley Secondary last June, was named the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) rookie of the year, a first team all-star and to the conference all-rookie team. She was also named to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) all-rookie team.

Not bad for someone who didn’t hit the ice until age 11 and didn’t play rep hockey until her last year of midget.

“Just getting to this point is such an achievement, how far I have gotten,” she said.

When Cooke began the sport, playing at the house level, she played out at first. But an injury to the goaltender and then a subsequent call-up for the goalie to the rep level, opened up an opportunity for someone to don the pads and control the crease.

Cooke jumped at the chance.

“I had my heart set on playing goalie because my mom, Lori, she was a goaltender back in her day, as well as my grandfather (Robert Smith),” she explained.

And it was a steep learning curve for Cooke’s new position.

“I was awful; I was basically Bambi on ice,” she said with a laugh.

“I just stuck to it and after a lot of practice, got a little bit better.

“Lots of practice and dedication.”

She also switched schools, transferring from North Surrey Secondary in her Grade 10 year so she could attend the LSS hockey academy.

“I definitely have to give Langley Secondary for helping me achieve my goals,” Cooke said.

It meant waking at 5 a.m. so she could make it to 7:45 a.m. practice before school. After classes, she would rush home, do her homework, have dinner and then attend practice with her hockey team. That was followed by more homework before bed.

Add in attending goalie schools, and there were weeks where she was on the ice seven or eight times.

But in the end, it has paid off, especially with the help of her coaches.

“I don’t think I would have made it to where I am without them,” she added, referring to Jamie Fiset, who runs the hockey academy.

“He taught me so many things on and off the ice and so many life lessons that I don’t think I could have learned anywhere else.”

She also said that Jordan Sigalet, a goaltender coach with the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat, has had a significant impact on her development through goalie camps and clinics Cooke attended.

And all that hard work and dedication paid off.

“I had no idea what the year had in store for me,” she said about moving across the country.

She was joining a hockey team which won a single game in 2011/12 (1-22-1) so Cooke knew the chance was there for some playing time. She didn’t expect to play all but three games as the team went 10-12-0.

Cooke had a 1.86 goals against average and a .934 save percentage. Those numbers ranked her sixth and third, respectively, in the conference, and she also played the most minutes of any goaltender.

Most importantly, she helped the Huskies advance to the AUS championship game, where they lost 4-1 to the St. FX X-Women.

Larade sees Cooke as a big future of the Huskies program.

“I can see her being a solid goalie for us for the next three years,” he said.

“Her love for the game and willingness to work to get better are great assets for our team.

“She has stepped in and performed like a veteran both on and off the ice.”

Cooke is studying psychology and plans on joining the RCMP — her father Derek Cooke is the superintendent of the Langley detachment and her stepmother is also an RCMP officer — upon completion of her schooling.

That doesn’t mean she is ready to hang up the skates just quite yet.

“I guess Team Canada would be the end goal,” she said. “I think every hockey player either wants to get there or the NHL, but the NHL is definitely an unrealistic goal for me.

“(But) I will keep playing until I have to quit.”

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