Cougars Melt Ice
Back-to-back games means back-to-back hat-tricks for Prince George Cougars 20-year-old Chase Witala. 48 hours removed from a three goal outing against the Giants, Witala struck three times in the third period to help pace the Cougars to a 7-2 home ice victory Tuesday against the Kootenay Ice. Brad Morrison added two goals for the Cougars while Luke Harrison and Sam Ruopp added singles. Zak Zborosky and Noah Philp responded for the Ice. Ty Edmonds, the reigning CHL Goaltender of the Week was sharp stopping 21 of the 23 shots he faced to earn his fifth consecutive victory between the pipes.
Less than three minutes into the first period Brad Morrison snuck past the Kootenay defense, took a Jared Bethune pass and snuck the puck past Ice netminder Declan Hobbs and home for his eight of the season and a 1-0 Cougars lead. Prince George outshot Kootenay 14-8 in the first but only held the one goal advantage after the opening 20 minutes.
Cougars captain Sam Ruopp increased the Cougars lead to 2-0 at 4:34 of the second when his high shot from the right point knuckled it’s way past Hobbs and home for his third. Luke Harrison would then get in on the act offensively when he buried a Colby McAuley rebound on the backhand to increase the Cougars lead to 3-0.
Kootenay, who played the final game of their five game B.C. Division road swing did not go away. Zak Zborosky helped move the Ice back within a goal after a terrific individual rush that resulted in his 12th goal of the season. Edmonds got some of his shot, but not quite all of it and that helped put Kootenay on the board at 15:59. The second ended 3-1 for the Cougars with each team repeating their shot totals from the first period: The Cougars had 14, the Ice had 8.
The Cougars struck four times in the first period, three of which came off the stick of Chase Witala. His first came at 3:46 of the final period on a power play one-timer from the right circle.
After Noah Philp responded with a power play goal for Kootenay, Witala chimed in offensively for the second time of the game when he took a Jesse Gabrielle backhand pass off the rush and roofed one over the shoulder of Hobbs at 9:40 to help restore the Cougars three goal lead.
With less than three minutes remaining in the third Brad Morrison grabbed his second of the game when he crashed the net hard and one-timed home a pass from Jansen Harkins who was behind the Kootenay net, and then with exactly one minute remaining in the third Chase Witala completed his hat-trick when he skated in two-on-one with Morrison. Witala kept, inched into the right circle and fired a shot past the blocker of Hobbs to secure his second hat-trick in as many games and his team high 17th goal overall in 2015-16.
Witala led all Cougars with three points but Brad Morrison, Jansen Harkins and Sam Ruopp also had multi-point games. The Cougars power play finished one-for-five while Kootenay went one-for-six on their chances. The final shots favored the Cougars by a 39-23 margin.
With the victory the Cougars record now sits at 18-9-1-1. They have now won six straight games and have recorded at least a single point in nine straight games overall and in 10 straight games at home. Their 38 points now puts them just two points back of the Victoria Royals for second spot in the B.C. Division.
Next up for the Cougars: A trip South to battle the Portland Winterhawks in a Friday-Saturday double-header.