From stickboy to scoring sensation, Chase Witala has made a name for himself for most of his teenaged years with his hometown Prince George Cougars.
Now in his third season playing for the Cats, the 18-year-old Witala leads the team in scoring with 10 goals and 21 points in 18 games and ranks 12th overall in the Western Hockey League scoring race. Projected over a 72-game season, he's on pace for 40 goals and 84 points.
Heading into tonight's game at CN Centre against the Kelowna Rockets, Witala had goals in six straight games but that streak ended one short of Brett Connolly's team record in Wednesday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Vancouver Giants.
The son of Darren and Tiffany Witala grew up in Prince George. With his soft hands around the net and ability to anticipate where the play was heading, Witala excelled as one of the go-to scorers for his minor hockey rep teams and that has continued at the junior level.
"It's been going good for me lately, pucks are going in for me and I'm getting lucky here and there and hopefully I can keep that up," said Witala, who's been playing left wing on a line with centre Troy Bourke and right winger David Soltes.
"We weren't shooting pucks too much on the net [Wednesday night] and when we were, we were missing them. If we get pucks on net hopefully they can sneak in or we'll get rebounds for a second chance."
The Cougars shifted combinations in Wednesday's game, matching Witala with Alex Forsberg and Klarc Wilson, but as a trio they failed to generate any points. Witala was held to one assist.
As good as the Cougars were last weekend while going toe-to-toe with the Calgary Hitmen and earning three of a possible four points in two shootouts, they looked dreadful against the Giants and were lucky to escape with a single point in the two -game series.
They put 36 shots on Giants goalie Jared Rathjen but Cougars head coach Mark Holick figures his team took at last 20 shots Wednesday that missed the net. The most glaring downfall has been the Cougars' power play, which is suffering through a 1-for-17 drought over the past four games. The Cats power play is dead-last among the 22 WHL teams, operating at 12.5 per cent success rate. They've also allowed a league-worst six shorthanded goals.
"We just have to get pucks through and traffic at the net and things will get better," said Holick. "We had our chances and didn't capitalize. We've tried every combination I can think of. We threw five forwards out there [Wednesday], I think next time it will be five d-men."
Kelowna (9-2-0-2) leads the the B.C. Division, three points ahead of the Cougars (7-8-1-2) with four games in hand. The Cougars finished off a four-game roadtrip in Kelowna Oct. 18 -- the first of eight meetings this season -- and lost 3-2.
"Kelowna is one of the top teams in the league for sure," said Witala. "They're an older experienced group with some high-end players. We put a good game together when we played them earlier in the season and we just have to work hard. If we're not working hard, they can eat that up for sure and they can score goals."