Witala finishes up Cougars camp with two goals

Chase Witala scored a pair of goals to help lead his Team White squad to a 5-2 victory against Team Black in the Cats annual intrasquad game Monday night at CN Centre.

In front of a crowd of close to 1,000 fans, the White squad scored two goals in each of the first and second periods en route to win the Rob Charney Cup, in memory of the long-time Cougars scout.

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Witala, the veteran 20-year-old Cougars left-winger accepted the Cup at centre ice after the game. In the 2014 Black versus White game, Witala led the Black squad to a 10-3 victory.

Monday's exhibition match, where fans received free admission, was the finale after a three-day training camp prior to the start of the 2015-16 Western Hockey League season.

Leading 4-1 in the third period, Team Black narrowed the gap to two when 18-year-old forward Jesse Gabrielle, acquired in the off-season in a trade with the Regina Pats, slotted the puck past Patrick Gora at the 14:15-minute mark.

Witala restored the three-goal lead with just under two minutes remaining in the game when he scored on a back-hand shot.

In the second period, Bartek Bison, a 17-year-old from Amsterdam, Holland who was selected in the 2015 CHL Import Draft, gave the White side a 4-1 lead when he deflected a point shot from defenceman Josh Anderson.

His goal came about 90 seconds after a tally from his teammate Jordan Ross to put White ahead 3-1 on a break-away.

Trailing 2-0, Tyler Mrkonjic, a veteran 19-year-old right-winger, stole the puck in the slot on a Team White turnover and wristed it past netminder Connor Dochuk to put the Black squad on the board.

Witala extended Team White's lead to 2-0 at the 7:19 mark of the second when he buried a rebound from Colby McAuley.

Justin Almeida, the Cougars first pick in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, gave Team White a 1-0 lead with five minutes left in the first period when he roofed a shot past Team Black netminder Ty Edmonds.

Anderson collected a pair of assists for Team White and shots on goal were 44-32 in favour of Team White.

A total of 46 players suited up for Monday's game. The Cougars are expected to trim their roster to 35 by today. The team begins pre-season play Friday when they travel to Kamloops to take on the Blazers. They'll follow that up with a game in Kelowna Saturday against the Rockets.

Loose Pucks: The Cougars announced Monday they signed a pair of defencemen - Joel Lakusta and Peter Kope - to Standard WHL Player Agreements.

Lakusta is a 17-year-old six-foot-two, 180-pound player from Sherwood Park, Alta. who was originally selected in the seventh round of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft by the Saskatoon Blades.

The Cougars acquired his CHL rights in a trade last summer with Saskatoon.

Last season with the Sherwood Park triple-A Midget Kings, Lakusta collected five goals, 12 assists and 67 penalty minutes.

"There is a tremendous amount of upside to his game," said Cougars general manager Todd Harkins. "He's a very strong and elusive skater, he moves the puck well and he does a great job of escaping the opposing team's forecheck."

Kope checks in at six-foot-one, 184 pounds and was selected by the Cougars in the fifth round of the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft.

The Edmonton product spent last season with the CAC Minor Midget triple-A Canadians where he tallied seven goals, 23 assists and 86 penalty minutes in 29 games.

"He brings a little bit of everything to the table," said Harkins. "He makes a strong first pass, is a force in front of his own net and plays older than his age."

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