The Prince George Cougars were dead and buried, trailing the high and mighty Kelowna Rockets by four goals late in the second period.
Like Frankenstein's monster, they needed a jolt to the bolts to reanimate and somehow they got their hands on the switch to turn on the juice.
The Cougars electrified a CN Centre crowd of 1,406, scoring four unanswered goals to force overtime, bringing their fans out of their seats in a thriller that ended in a 7-6 shootout victory for the Rockets.
Jordan Tkatch started the comeback with a power-play goal late just before the second intermission. With five minutes gone in the third period, Zach Pochiro took Brad Morrison's seeing-eye backhand pass and rifled a high-corner shot from a sharp angle to make it 6-4. Chase Witala made it a one-goal game 75 seconds later, rapping a loose puck that had dropped at the feet of goalie Jordon Cooke. Then it was up to Cougar captain Troy Bourke to take the world on his shoulders. Bourke seized the puck at the side of the Kelowna cage, went behind the net and scored on a wraparound to tie it up at six.
The Cougars were relentless in trying to end it in regulation time and the Rockets came within a whisker of that with 3;10 left, but Zach Franco's tip-in beat Zarowny was disallowed because it was knocked in with a high stick.
Bourke appeared to have the winner 17 seconds into overtime, hoisting a rebound high over Cooke after Pochiro broke in alone, but Pochiro was ruled to have made unintentional contact with Cooke and that goal was disallowed.
In the shootout, Myles Bell scored on a deke, and Pochiro tucked in a wrist shot, leaving it up to Justin Kirkland, and the Rockets left winger made no mistake, blasting a low shot past Bret Zarowny to end it.
Bell and Tyson Baillie each scored twice to boost the Rockets (10-2-0-2) to their second win in as many tries this season against the Cougars (7-8-1-3) who suffered their fourth consecutive loss.
A disastrous beginning for the Cats trailing 3-0 with only 4:31 gone and had everyone in the building wondering how badly they'd get buried by the B.C. Division frontrunners by the time the shelling stopped. Baillie needed just 37 seconds to find the net behind Ty Edmonds after linemate Nick Merkley threw the puck in front and it deflected right onto Baillie's stick in the slot. Bell's goals came 19 seconds apart was all it took to convince Cougars head coach Mark Holick to replace Edmonds and summon Zarowny from the bench.
The Cougars got one back courtesy of a breakaway finished nicely with a backhand deke from Bourke. Baillie caught Cats' defenceman Raymond Grewal flatfooted with an outside move and rooofed a shot behind Zarowny on a Kelowna power play to restore the three-goal lead but it wasn't all doom and gloom for Cougars fans.
Alex Forsberg restored the Cougars vital signs, moving the puck into the Kelowna zone and feeding Pochiro in the slot with a perfect backhand pass. Pochiro had a stride on Damon Severson and the Cougar winger put it high over the shoulder of Cooke.
The much-maligned Cougars power play, which ranks last in the 22-team WHL, actually put the league's best penalty killers under duress and came close to making it a one-goal game late in the period. The Cats used that as incentive to generate at least three good chances on Cooke before the period ended.
Cooke, the CHL goalie of the month in October, was the Rockets' best penalty-killer during a 5-on-3 chance that came eight minutes into the second period. Cooke shot across the crease to get his leg in front of David Soltes's labeled one-timer. The Rockets had five minor penalties to kill in the middle frame and got the job done unscathed.
The teams meet again tonight (7 p.m.) at CN Centre and if the rematch is anything like Friday's game, it'll be a can't-miss encounter.
Rockets 7 at Cougars 6 (SO)
1. Kelowna, Baillie 7 (Chartier, Bowey) 0:37
2. Kelowna, Bell 7 (Merkley, Kirkland) 4:12
3. Kelowna, Bell 8 (Kirkland, Bowey) 4:31
4. Prince George, Bourke 7, 5:37
5. Kelowna, Baillie 8 (Bowey, Bell) 8:41 (pp)
6. Prince George, Pochiro 7 (Forsberg) 12:54
Penalties -- Goulbourne Kel (fighting), Wilson PG (fighting) 0:13, Bobos PG (check to the head) 8:20.
7. Kelowna, Kirkland 3 (Severson, Martin) 15:41
8. Kelowna, Schmidli 1 (Severson, Martin) 16:56
9. Prince George, Tkatch 2 (Wilson, McNulty) 17:19 (pp)
Penalties -- Wheaton Kel (interference) 1:18, Bowey Kel (tripping) 3:15, Yorke Kel (fighting), Roulston PG (fighting) 6:38, Wheaton Kel (high-sticking) 6:46, Martin Kel (holding) 7:50, Merkley Kel (double roughing), Bourke PG (roughing) 11:51, Bell Kel (slashing) 17:13, Kosterman PG (slashing) 19:12.
10. Prince George, Pochiro 8 (Morrison, Forsberg) 4:59
11. Prince George, Witala 11 (Wilson) 6:03
12. Prince George, Bourke 8 (Wilson, Grewal) 14:42
Penalties -- Grewal PG (interference) 8:53, Grewal PG (hooking) 12:27.
Penalties -- Bell Kel (roughing), Wilson PG (cross-checking) 3:42.
Kelowna wins shootout 2-1
Kelowna -- Bell, scored; Merkley, missed; Kirkland, scored; Prince George, Bourke, missed; Pochiro, scored; Soltes, missed.
Shots on goal by
Goal -- Kelowna, Cooke (W,9-0-2); Prince George, Edmonds (six shots, three saves) and at 4:31 of first, Zarowny (L,0-6-1, 37 shots, 34 saves).
Power plays (goals-chances) -- Kel: 1-4; PG: 1-5.
Referees -- Ryan Benbow, Mike Campbell; Linesmen: Ryan Gibbons, Brendon Creyke.
Attendance -- 1,406.