Jared Cowen’s remarkable reversal of fortune is 12 months in the making.
Exactly one year after Cowen learned his 2009 season was ending prematurely because of a devastating knee injury, the Spokane Chiefs defenseman is living a life renewed.
Cowen took a big step toward an NHL career when he signed a three-year contract with the Ottawa Senators this week, and he looked sharp while scoring a goal Friday night in a 5-1 victory over Kamloops at the Arena in a Western Hockey League showdown.
Tyler Johnson and Jared Spurgeon scored two goals apiece, and Mitch Wahl and Kyle Beach each tallied three assists for the Chiefs, who improved to 31-19-3-1. Kamloops slipped to 25-25-2-4 and fell a distant 10 points behind the Chiefs in the Western Conference standings.
After Kamloops pulled within 2-1 on C.J. Stretch’s goal in the second period, Johnson scored a pair of goals in a 3-minute span to give the Chiefs an insurmountable three-goal cushion. Johnson then assisted on Spurgeon’s second power-play goal with 1:31 left in the game for the final margin.
Spokane was 4 for 8 on power plays. Kamloops was 1 for 4.
“On power plays we want to get shots on the net and get more chances,” Johnson said. “It’s bound to go in once in a while.”
Jared Spurgeon gave the Chiefs a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal a little more than 12 minutes into the game. Kyle Beach’s shot sailed wide right, but Spurgeon was positioned for the rebound, which he rocketed over Kurtis Mucha’s left shoulder for his fifth goal.
With less than 3 minutes left in the period and the Chiefs enjoying a one-man advantage, Cowen redirected Wahl’s shot in front of the net, and the puck squeaked past Mucha for Spokane’s second goal. Cowen has posted seven goals.
Cowen’s right knee suffered a pair of torn ligaments in an on-ice collision in late January 2009. He learned days later on Feb. 5 that his season was over and set in motion a grueling rehabilitation following reconstructive surgery.
“He took that in stride fairly well — and extremely well for an 18-, 19-year-old,” Spokane coach Hardy Sauter said. “He was drafted in the top 10 and dealt extremely well with those pressures and compliments. He’s done a good job strengthening his leg and playing and pitching in. That he signed with Ottawa, I think is just a real big compliment.”
The Senators announced Wednesday on their Web site that Cowen and the team had agreed to a contract. In his third season in Spokane, Cowen will compete for a roster spot at Ottawa’s training camp in September.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray told the Ottawa Citizen, “He’s a brave, or courageous defenseman, he hits people, and I think it’s just adjusting to the speed.”
Johnson said Cowen’s success “couldn’t happen to a nicer player,” although he added that Cowen should buy his teammates dinner.
Not once, though. Twice.
“Once is enough,” Cowen countered.
Kamloops’ Mucha set a WHL record for games played at his position. Mucha’s start against the Chiefs was No. 234, nudging him ahead of former Swift Current goaltender Kyle Moir. Mucha also holds the record for most minutes played by a goalie (13,142) and needs 325 saves to surpass the all-time mark.
Spokane goaltender James Reid made 21 saves, and Mucha stopped 27 shots for the Blazers. The Chiefs outshot Kamloops 32-22, and the teams combined for 98 penalty minutes.