Even Zach Pochiro couldn't push the Prince George Cougars past Patrik Bartosak and the Red Deer Rebels Wednesday night at CN Centre.
Pochiro, a 17-year-old forward from Las Vegas, had a scorching-hot stick in the Western Hockey League contest but the Cats still fell 4-3 to the Rebels in a shootout. In the game, Pochiro had two goals and an assist but Red Deer got an outstanding effort from Bartosak, its 19-year-old goaltender, and escaped with the victory. The Cougars outshot the Rebels 53-31 in regulation time and overtime.
In the shootout, Rhyse Dieno and Dominik Volek both scored for Red Deer, while Pochiro and Chase Witala were stymied by Bartosak.
In a five-minute OT, the Cougars failed to take advantage of a 4-on-3 power-play after Red Deer was assessed a delay of game penalty.
In the third period, Christian Stockl of the Rebels deflected a shot by defenceman Mathew Dumba for a tying goal at the 10:10 mark.
The Cougars had a 3-2 lead after a wild second period and neither team found the back of the net in the first.
The Cougars opened the scoring in the middle frame when Jari Erricson tipped home a power-play point shot by Dallas Ehrhardt at 4:06. The Rebels answered right back with a re-direct of their own at the 7:56 mark. On the play, a rushing Joel Hamilton deflected a feed from Kayle Doetzel and the puck found its way past Prince George goalie Mac Engel. Red Deer took the lead on a backdoor goal by Tyson Ness but Pochiro then scored goals 39 seconds apart to put his club back on top. On Pochiro's first, he stepped off the end boards and his quick, sharp-angle shot beat Bartosak. Moments later, off a Cougars' dump-in, Pochiro was perfectly positioned to take a pass from Jarrett Fontaine and sent a knuckler over Bartosak's glove.
In a scoreless first period, the Cougars outshot the Rebels 17-7 and controlled most of the last 10 minutes. Bartosak, however, was equal to the challenge in the Red Deer net.
With Wednesday's result, the Cougars (16-30-2-6) picked up a single point and moved to within three points of the eighth-place Seattle Thunderbirds, who hold the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Cats were helped by the fact the Victoria Royals dumped the visiting Thunderbirds 4-1 on Wednesday night.
The Rebels improved to 28-21-4-2.
The Cougars will be back on CN Centre ice Friday night for a game against the Vancouver Giants. The Cats and G-men will also square off on Saturday.
The Cougars and Rebels, meanwhile, will meet again next Wednesday in Red Deer.
KITTY LITTER: The game was the first in the WHL career of Prince George defenceman Jordan Harris. The 16-year-old Harris was the Cougars' first-round pick, 10th overall, in the 2011 bantam draft. Meanwhile, Cougars blueliner Mark McNulty was back in action after missing eight games with an upper body injury.