The Topeka Pilots dug themselves a whole just a little bit too deep to climb out of Friday night against the Lone Star Brahmas.
After falling behind 1-0 after one period and 4-1 after two periods, Topeka (17-22-7) came out ready to battle in the third period, showing great resiliency.
Forward Michael Muschitiello brought it to 4-2, ripping a wrist shot from the slot at 8:14 of the third.
Then forward Matthew Francois redirected a shot into the back of the net at 18:05, cutting the Brahmas’ lead to 4-3.
Brahmas goaltender and Lake Superior State commit Seth Eisele then kept the Pilots at bay the remainder of the contest and Lone Star tacked on an empty-net goal, as they defeated the Pilots 5-3 at NYTEX Sports Center.
With the loss and a victory by the Corpus Christi Ice Rays, Topeka now trails Corpus Christi by six points for the fourth and final playoff spot in the NAHL South Division.
Opening the contest, Lone Star outshot Topeka 10-3 in the first 20 minutes.
Despite the shot disparity, the period remained scoreless for much of the frame, before defenseman Blake Evennou broke through at 16:56 while on the powerplay. Taking a feed from forward Zach Heintz, Evennou fired a one-timer from the blue line, slipping it past Pilots goaltender Emil Gransoe.
Heintz then got into the act, netting his 13th of the season at 7:51 of the second period to double the lead.
Forward Noah Roofe followed up and made it a 3-0 game, scoring a breakaway goal at 12:36 of the frame.
Looking to get the Pilots back in the mix, forward Kyler Yeo deflected a shot at 16:24 for his sixth goal of the season. Forward Cam Cervone received the primary assist on the play.
Before the end of the second, forward Eric Huss pushed the Brahmas’ lead back to three, making it 4-1 at second intermission.
Topeka will look to build on its third period performance, as they face Lone Star in the second game of the two-game series at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the NYTEX Sports Center.