Rockets Edge Cougars in OT
Prince George, B.C. – Friday night in Prince George nearly 2800 strong were treated to a thrilling hockey game between two of the top teams in the Western Conference and the B.C. Division. Rockets forward Rourke Chartier scored with 1:10 left in the third to tie the game and would then add the overtime winner for his hat-trick goal, helping the Kelowna Rockets come back to earn a 4-3 overtime victory over the Prince George Cougars.
Chase Witala, Jesse Gabrielle and Colby McAuley responded with goals for the Cougars who outshot the Rockets 46-34 and controlled large parts of the game territorially against a Kelowna team that regained sole possession of first place in the B.C. Division and the WHL with the victory.
Each team scored once in each of the first three periods. Kelowna opened the scoring at 6:19 of the first on a five-on-three power play. Tomas Soustal took the puck along the left wing wall, crept to the middle of the slot before ripping a high shot through traffic and past Nick McBride for his 13th and a 1-0 Kelowna lead.
Late in the first though the Cougars answered when Jesse Gabrielle pounced on a Shane Collins rebound and wired a shot past the glove of Michael Herringer for his team leading 35th goal of the season. Gabrielle would later add an assist and has now three goals and seven points in his past three games. He’s also grabbed points in nine of his past 10 games and has seven goals and 11 assists in that span. The shots favored the Cougars 18-9 after one period of play.
Mid-way through the middle frame, the Cougars took their first lead of the night when Chase Witala, who earlier in the night was recognized in a pre-game ceremony for becoming the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer, raced in alone on Herringer and made a terrific move to the forehand before lifting home his 34th of the season and the 114th goal of his career.
The Cougars lead lasted all of 24 seconds, because Rourke Chartier tucked home his 15th of the season and his first of three on the night on a backhand shot from in close to tie the score at two.
Early in the third the teams traded chances but both Nick McBride and Michael Herringer kept the door shut for their respective teams. Finally at the 12:47 mark Colby McAuley snuck a low shot past Herringer and home for his 13th of the season, giving the Cougars their second lead of the game at 3-2.
But with the net empty and 1:10 remaining in regulation, the Rockets found the equalizer. Again it was Chartier who converted off a Tomas Soustal pass from in close to once again tie the score.
Chartier would end the game with his third of the night which came at 2:47 of the overtime period. The victory marked the 39th of the season for the Rockets, which helped vault them back into top spot overall in the WHL and Western Conference standings. With the single point the Cougars record now sits at 31-21-3-1, and their 66 points put them 11 back of Victoria for second place and eight points ahead of the fourth placed Kamloops Blazers, who beat Vancouver 5-0 Friday night.
With 66 points on the season the Cougars are now just a single point shy of matching their season point total from 2014-15, and they have 16 games remaining on their schedule. A rematch win over Kelowna would help them surpass their 2014-15 victory total. The Cougars and Rockets square off again tonight at the CN Centre in the seventh of eight meetings on the season between the two rivals.