McAuley’s Jake Poole had a successful Western Hockey League rookie season on and off the ice.
In his 17-year-old campaign, the son of Dana and Robin Poole had four goals and recorded 16 points in 59 games for the Kelowna Rockets. The 6-foot-1, 187-pound forward helped his B.C. team earn a playoff berth before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the season.
“He’s very coachable and has progressed as the season has gone on,” Rockets assistant coach Vernon Fiddler said towards the end of the regular season. “He’s learning as a rookie to get better and better every game. He’s been pretty strong defensively and plays a heavy game, so when we need him to step into a higher role he can move up and down the lineup. I think he’s been fairly good down the stretch for us.”
After not making the Kelowna club as a 16-year-old, Poole went back to the U18 AAA Yellowhead Chiefs to continue to develop his game. On total, he played two seasons with that team and two at the U15 AAA level with the Chiefs.
“It was a great group of guys that I played with for four years,” he said. “Everyone was so tight. It was fun. Good teams.”
After a successful season with the Chiefs and working with Virden’s Patty Hole on his skating and sessions with The Hockey Factory’s Dave Lewis, Poole earned a Rockets roster spot. He said the highlights of his season were making the team, scoring his first goal and helping the team earn a playoff berth.
The Rockets were looking to make a deep playoff run and excited to show they could play with the best major junior teams. The team was to host the Memorial Cup national championship, but that was cancelled due to the pandemic. Before the cancellation announcement, Poole said there was a buzz in the city about the event. He was looking forward to:
“Seeing top teams. Seeing the level you have to be at.”
By that point in the season, Poole had clearly demonstrated he could compete at the WHL level. The biggest differences between the U18 and major junior levels?
“The speed. There are a lot of high skilled players. You have to be ready. … You got to do the little things right,” Poole said. “If you don’t, the puck will end up in the back of the net.”
Poole also successfully adjusted to life off the ice. He enjoyed living away from home and adjusted to the switch from Moosomin’s McNaughton High School, with an enrollment of about 320, to Kelowna Secondary School with more than 1,800 students. Poole proved he could succeed academically.
He was named the Rockets’ Scholastic Player of the Year. Poole was selected as the Rockets Academic Achiever for November, January, and February. He said he had to be focused on his school work. The WHL has teams spread from Victoria, B.C. in the west to Winnipeg in the east to Portland, Ore. in the south. Long road trips by bus meant a lot of homework for Poole.
A road trip to Brandon also was a homecoming of sorts for him. “It was great to see all of the family, friends, and old teammates,” Poole said.
Along every step of his hockey journey, he has been supported by his family.
“Both my parents have sacrificed a lot for me to get to this level,” Poole said. “They are always texting me to see if I need anything. … I definitely would not be where I am without them.”