BACK TO WORK AS THE ‘RUNNERS BLANK THE JR. BLUES
The Topeka RoadRunners returned to the ice after a two week hiatus and picked up right where they left off with a rock solid defensive performance and a 3-0 win on Friday over the Springfield Jr. Blues at the Nelson Center.
Topeka capitalized on a Springfield turnover when Jake Kamrass picked off a Jr. Blues clearing attempt just outside the blue line. Alertly, he waited for Yu Hikosaka to clear the zone before sending a sharp pass to Tyler Poulsen, who came straight up the middle, then with a shoulder fake dipped to right and ripped a shot across the grain that sailed past goalie Stefanos Lekkas for a 1-0 RoadRunner lead at 5:58. Topeka had two power play chances in the opening frame, including :24 seconds of 5-on-3 play but couldn’t extend their lead.
The RoadRunners penalty killers have been red hot of late, killing 22 of 23 penalties over the recently completed six game homestand. In the second period, Topeka had to kill off a pair of penalties, and on the heels of the second successful kill, doubled their lead. Cody Champagne had wrapped the puck around the boards from behind the ‘Runners net, and fresh out of the penalty box, Sly Sutter picked it and carried it down the right wing wall and around behind the Jr. Blues net, eventually finding Jasen Fernsler who buried a wrister on the blocker side at 18:44. The ‘Runners outshot 24-18 through the first 2 periods and led 2-0.
The third period saw the RoadRunners power play convert to take a 3-0 lead, as Jake Kamrass fired a puck to the crease area that deflected through the pads of Lekkas, assisted by Champagne and Poulsen. Topeka’s penalty killers were called to action in the final minutes but successfully killed off their third shorthanded situation of the night, paving the way for a 3-0 RoadRunner victory behind a 24-save effort from goalie PJ Bridges, who registered his sixth shutout of the season. His league leading goals against average plummeted to 1.19, and his NAHL-best save percentage increased to .954.
Topeka (22-11-4) and Springfield (18-16-4) will square off for the last time in Springfield this season on Saturday night at 7:05 pm. The game will be aired on Sports Radio 1490 KTOP in Topeka, streamed live with iHeartRadio, and videocast online at FASTHockey.com.
· Friday’s RoadRunner win guarantees the team will be in 2nd place on January 20 when the seeding for the Top Prospects Tournament is determined. As a result, Head Coach Scott Langer will make his 7th appearance at the event, along with 4 RoadRunner players.
· Jake Kamrass and Tyler Poulsen each have 29 points to lead the team in scoring.
· Two RoadRunners made their debut on Friday. Forwards Willie Brown and Daniel Rzavsky played on a line with Sam Rennaker.
· PJ Bridges now has 6 shutouts on the year. The RoadRunner franchise record for a single season is 8, set by Nick Hopper in 2006-07. The career record is 9, held by Bryce Merriam.
· The ‘Runners are 6-0-1 in their last seven games, allowing a paltry 0.42 goals per game over that stretch. The penalty kill has killed 25 of 26 chances (96.2%), while the power has converted 5 of 29 chances (17.2%). Topeka has outscored their opponents 14-3 in those 7 games.
· Springfield hasn’t scored a goal against Topeka (other than the shootout) in 185:05. The last goal was an empty netter with :05 seconds remaining in the game on Dec. 7.
· Topeka is 4-2-3 against Springfield this season, with all 4 wins coming on Friday nights. All three shootout losses happened in Topeka.