Pavel Padakin was convinced he saw the net ripple.
Ty Edmonds believed the puck was stopped by the crossbar. But without eyes in the back of his head the Prince George Cougar goalie wasn't quite sure, and neither were the 1,670 spectators gathered around the ice Saturday night at CN Centre.
The video replay brought conclusive evidence. Padakin's shootout goal gave the Calgary Hitmen a 4-3 victory over the host Prince George Cougars, marking the second time in as many nights a shootout was needed to decide the winner. That brought welcome relief to the Hitmen, who were fortunate to escape with two points after being outshot 48-36 and outplayed most of the game.
Greg Chase collected his first WHL hat trick, which left him with team-high 13 goals and 22 points this season.
"We wanted to come in and have a good start, we knew they were a hardworking team that has good starts and they showed that the night before," said Chase. "We all knew if you're going to beat [Edmonds], he's good on his glove and [Padakin] made a nice move and snuck one under his glove there."
The win improved the Hitmen's record to 10-3-1-2, tops in the WHL Eastern Conference.
"I liked our start but we gave up too many opportunities," said Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson. "Our coverage was a little bit loose and Prince George worked extremely hard for their chances. We looked like a tired hockey team as the game wore on but we found a way to get it done in the end."
The Cougars (7-7-0-2) are gathering a reputation as a team that doesn't quit when they fall behind and they showed that again Saturday against one of the league's best teams. The shootout was a biter for the Cougars but nobody was hanging their heads after taking three of a possible four points in the two-game series with the Hitmen, who lost 4-3 in Friday's shootout.
"I think the staff are proud of our guys, we had Everett come in here and we took three out of flour points and then we get the top team in the East and get three out of four in our rink," said Cougars head coach Mark Holick. "Our home record [4-2-0-2] is starting to get to where we want it to be and getting a lot of points at home is important because our road schedule is difficult with the travel we do so we want to make sure we squeeze out every point we can at home."
As dominant as the Cougars were in the third period while outshooting the Hitmen 12-2, it was all Calgary in overtime. They somehow found another gear in OT and put up six shots to the Cougars' none and had two great chances to end it. Edmonds got his chest in front of Padakin's one-timer from point-blank range and then, from down on his knees, the Cougar goalie flashed his trapper to take away a goal from Elliot Peterson.
Chase wore out his welcome in a hurry, scoring three times in the first period, all from close-range shots. His first of the night was a gift he found in the slot after a weak shot got lost in the legs of Cougar defenceman Peter Kosterman, just 1:11 into the game. Then at the 3:44 mark, Chase fired one in from the face-off circle. The Cougars responded 16 seconds later, a harmless-looking wrister by Zach Pochiro from just inside the blueline that found the net in the far corner behind Mack Shields. Late in the period, with Cats defenceman Martin Bobos off for tripping, Chase caught Edmonds dipping his shoulder and rifled the puck up high.
The Cougars held the fort extremely well and started dominating in the middle frame, just as they did the previous night. David Soltes brought the Cougars back to within a goal of a clean slate two minutes into the period, a play started by Troy Bourke, who fed linemate Chase Witala standing at the post. Witala redirected the pass into the slot for a waiting Soltes. Picked fourth overall by the Cougars in the CHL import draft, Soltes notched the winner over the Hitmen in Friday's shootout.
The Cats' third goal, 12 minutes into the second, came from a likely source -- Witala. The 18-year-old from Prince George has been demonizing opposition goalies the past three weeks and he took a kick-pass from Soltes in front of the net to notch his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
Both goalies were sharp. Witala nailed the crossbar with a minute left in period and got stuffed by Shields on a breakaway just before the buzzer.
The Cougar defence was simply stifling in the third period as the tiring effects of their week-long roadtrip started to creep into the Hitmen. The Cats had plenty of shots but not a lot of Grade-A chances.
"We outplayed them in the third and we know we should have had a win there," said Cougars defenceman Joseph Carvalho. "The D-zone coverage in the first period wasn't too good but we got definitely better after that and once again Ty was outstanding and gave us a chance to win. They had some really good chances to win it in overtime and he just keeps doing it, standing on his head. It's crazy, he's a 17-year-old rookie playing like he's a 20-year-old veteran."