Former Airdrie Xtreme gets second chance with Kelowna Rockets
When one door closes, another opens. As an overage player in the WHL Airdrie’s Cody Fowlie found that out in October.
For the past two seasons, Fowlie played with the Everett Silvertips, but that came to an end in the middle of Manitoba in October..
The Silvertips were in the middle of its ‘Saskatchewan Swing,’ a road trip that saw the team compete against all of the Saskatchewan-based teams and the Brandon Wheat Kings.
WHL teams are only allowed three 20-year-old, or overage, players on their rosters throughout the course of the season and the road trip coincided with the league’s Oct. 16 overage deadline.
When the ‘Tips picked up Connor Cox from the Saskatoon Blades, Fowlie got the call that he was the odd man out.
“It was hard,” Fowlie said.
Fowlie returned home for a few days before joining the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Junior A Hockey League (BCHL).
However, he didn’t have to play the waiting game long, as after only three games with the Vipers, he got the call to join the Kelowna Rockets.
“We had a few injuries and we were heading into an Alberta road swing shorthanded,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska.
“We picked him up to take a look at him. We told him we weren’t expecting one of our 20 year olds back for another month, so it was an opportunity to prove himself.
“By the first game of the road trip, we had our mind made up to keep him.”
In 50 games with the Rockets, Fowlie has scored 17 goals and 19 assists, but it has been his work on the team’s penalty kill and his presence in the locker room that impressed Huska and the rest of the Rockets’ staff.
The latter, Huska said, is Fowlie’s most important attribute.
“He’s very willing to do all the little things, like blocking shots and being physical, but with his personality, he’s a guy that coaches would like to have more players (be like) in the room,” Huska said. “He’s been a big help to our leadership and if he would’ve been here longer, he’d be (an assistant captain).”
Fowlie made his Rockets debut Oct. 24 in a 4-3 loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers. Two games prior, a 3-0 win over the Prince George Cougars triggered a 23-0 winning streak at home for the Rockets, which ended only a few weeks ago with a 5-3 loss to the Portland Winterhawks Feb. 8.
The move from Everett to Kelowna also proved to be a blessing in disguise for Fowlie.
The Rockets, which are in second place behind the Portland Winterhawks in the league’s Western Conference, have already clinched a playoff spot with two weeks left in the regular season.
The Silvertips are in a fight with three other teams for the eighth-place spot.
Against former teammates
The move to a fellow Western team also meant that Fowlie would meet up with his former team four more times over the course of the season.
The first came in November and was an 8-2 blowout for Kelowna and the other three were also Rockets wins.
“It was difficult,” Fowlie said of being back in the arena that was his home for the past two years and of playing against his friends.
“It was interesting, too, but it definitely felt pretty good to beat them.”
Whenever the Rockets’ season ends, it will also mean the end of Fowlie’s WHL career, as it is his last year of eligibility.
He says he is grateful to finish it out in a Rockets’ uniform and is also hoping that a deep playoff run and a few more points will draw the interest of a pro team, but until then his focus is with the team.
With a playoff spot secured, Fowlie said the team is concentrating on locking up the B.C. Division title and then, whoever it meets in the first round.
“We need to play strong defensively and be a hard team to play against,” he said.
“Our special teams need to be huge.”
According to Huska, Fowlie’s contribution to the team as it nears the post season is simple: stay the course.