Brad Morrison knew something good was bound to happen when found out his linemates for Saturday's game were a pair of NHL prospects.
At centre he had Colorado Avalanche draft pick Troy Bourke and on right wing was New York Rangers training camp invitee Klarc Wilson. For Morrison, a 16-year-old WHL rookie, that was like having a lion and a cobra by his side to help fend off the Everett Silvertips.
Morrison won the ultimate battle himself, beating off his check to get open at the side of the net and bury a centring pass from Bourke for gamewinner 1:15 into overtime as the Cougars rallied to defeat the Silvertips 4-3.
It was a fitting end for the Cougars, who felt they got shortchanged Friday night when an apparent shootout goal that would have decided the first game against Everett was disallowed. Born and raised in Prince George, Morrison was celebrating the biggest goal of his young junior career when he looked up and saw has father Doug in the stands at CN Centre jumping for joy.
"That was a pretty cool thing to score a goal like that, it's pretty exciting for me," said Morrison. "I was out there with two guys who are going to make the jump to pro hockey next year and you know when you're playing with those guys it's a pretty big compliment."
Chase Witala was another hometown hero for the Cougars with two goals. His linemates, Zach Pochiro and Alex Forsberg, capped a strong weekend with a goal and an assist respectively on Saturday. In taking three of a possible four points in the two-game series the Cats climbed above the .500 mark for the first time this season.
"[Cougars head coach Mark Holick] put us together [Friday] night and we did pretty good in that game and we followed that up with another good game and got rewarded with a few goals," said Witala. "Losing the shootout point just gave us more fuel to add to the fire to get the two points tonight. I have a lot of friends and family here, so it feels good."
The Cougars trailed 2-1 after the first period but easily could have been three goals down. Outshot 12-11 in the opening frame, they were outchanced 6-2 by Everett and dodged some major bullets. At least three of those chances -- open-net attempts from Brayden Low, Ivan Nikolishin, and Joshua Winquist -- went wide of the net.
Jujhar Khaira's aim was dead-on at the 14:55 mark as he picked the inside of the post following up on the play after Sandhu tried to split the defence. Less than two minutes later, while the Silvertips were killing the first penalty of the game, Pochiro handed the puck to Kohl Bauml in the slot and the Silvertip centre wired a high shot past Ty Edmonds. It was the league-leading fifth shorthanded goal the Cougars have allowed this season. Witala atoned for that mistake when he scored before the power play ended.
"Our first was not very good at all, they were physical and we were getting pushed around a bit and we didn't have an answer for it until the second period," said Holick. "Klarc Wilson came out for the second and was like a man amongst boys his first two shifts and got our team going and he had a lot to do with changing the momentum for us."
So did Witala. He erased the Silvertips' lead 50 seconds into the second period, gladly accepting a gift pass from Mirco Mueller that left him alone with the puck in the deep slot and he fired it past Daniel Cotton. Carson Stadnyk, who scored the deciding shootout goal for Everett on Friday, forced the Cats into catchup mode again late in the second period, but Pochiro had an answer for that with 17 seconds left in the period, finishing off a nifty pass in the slot from Forsberg, who won the face-off in the Everett end.
Shots were 41-29 in the Cougars favour. It was a much different Cougar team than the one that lost 8-3 in Everett on Sept. 20.
"They had to start the season on the road and that's a tough trip, three in three nights," said Silvertips head coach Kevin Constantine. "But if you look at them, even in preseason and now, they generally outshoot the team they're playing, which is a sign that they're in good shape territorially.
"I think they'll get plenty of wins this year. They have some difference-makers on their team and I'm very impressed."