Goaltender McLean Dorr was a rock in net on Thursday night for the Topeka Pilots, and his teammates took advantage.
Dorr stopped all 41 shots he faced on the evening, and Topeka (21-25-8) earned timely goals in the first and third periods, winning 2-0 over the Odessa Jackalopes at the Ector County Coliseum.
The win moves the Pilots just three points behind the idle Corpus Christi IceRays for the final playoff spot in the NAHL South Division race. Corpus Christi begins a two-game series on the road Friday night with the Shreveport Mudbugs.
Topeka will play two more games with Odessa on Friday and Saturday night.
Odessa (20-32-2) piled on the pressure in the third period, peppering Dorr with 15 shots on goal after being stonewalled in the first 40 minutes, but the Pittsburgh, Penn. native had several key stops to keep the two-goal advantage intact.
After nearly a period of scoreless hockey, Pilots forward Christian Thomas broke through with his third goal of the season at the 17:33 mark of the first. Thomas, who was acquired from the Amarillo Bulls earlier this season, took advantage of a turnover by the Jackalopes, skated in front of the net and flipped a puck past goaltender Alex Camarre for the 1-0 lead.
Leading 1-0 after one, the two teams combined for 34 shots in the middle period. Neither Topeka nor Odessa could find the back of the net, as Camarre and Dorr played spoilers in between the pipes, looking to keep their respective clubs in the contest.
With both teams down a man and playing 4-on-4, forward Austin McCarthy doubled the Pilots’ lead at 5:34 of the third period. McCarthy’s goal came after a breakout rush from defenseman Max Finner. After the puck was knocked away from Finner, McCarthy picked it up and skated along the left wing into the Jackalopes’ zone.
McCarthy then used several Odessa players to screen Camarre, as his seeing-eye shot found the top-right corner of the net. His tally was his third in three games and fourth in his last five contests.
The Pilots have now won three of their last four games and will look to keep the momentum going on Friday. Puck drop in Odessa will be at 7:11 p.m. at the Ector County Coliseum.