While the Topeka RoadRunners didn’t get the outcome they wanted Friday night’s season opener, the components appeared in place for a team focused on improving from last season.
Playing a tightly contested much of the night, Topeka relinquished a late third period goal, making it 3-1 with just over five minutes to play.
While they peppered Corpus Christi goaltender Camden Burggrabe in the final minutes, Burggrabe held strong and the IceRays buried an empty-netter in the waning moments, to notch a 4-1 victory at Landon Arena.
“We did a pretty good job defensively tonight, and the times we didn’t, it ended up in the back of our net,” RoadRunners assistant coach Justin DeMartino said.
Corpus Christi opened the scoring in the first period, firing in a rebound past goaltender Emil Gransoe for a 1-0 lead at the 6:45 mark.
Topeka appeared to a lack cohesion early on, much of which could be attested to the nerves of a young team in its first home matchup.
“In the first period, we definitely got the jitters there in front of the home crowd, but we played an honest hockey game,” RoadRunners assistant coach Justin DeMartino said.
The second period saw Topeka start to pick it up a bit and create some quality scoring chances, but it was Corpus Christi who got the next tally with forward Jayson Dimizio beating Gransoe for a 2-0 advantage.
Forward Chad Hillebrand got Topeka in it with a powerplay goal at 8:04, set up by a great pass to the slot by defenseman Sam Martel.
“Definitely never want to lose a hockey game, but I like what I saw in the second and third periods tonight,” DeMartino said. “You could start to see us loosening up and playing our game.”
Unfortunately, Topeka would get no closer. Forward Brendan Miller had both tallies for Corpus Christi in the third period.
Topeka looks to rebound Saturday night against their NAHL South Division foe. Puck drops at 7:15 p.m.
“That’s a really good team there at the other end,” DeMartino said. “We’ll clean up our mistakes from tonight and come out firing Saturday.”