With a magic number of 7 and four games left in the regular season, the Topeka RoadRunners were in a position to control their own destiny in their pursuit of the NAHL South title. They protected that position by picking up a 7-4 win in Wichita Falls on Friday night.
The Wildcats knew their push to make the postseason had fallen short, having been eliminated the prior week. With \”March Madness\” in the air, the \’Runners knew they needed to be sharp to hold off the upset minded Wichita Falls club. Topeka got on the board early in the first period and never trailed. Justin Kovacs snapped home the rebound of a Tony Thomas shot at 1:52. Topeka peppered Wildcat goalie P.J. Musico and at 14:57, Chris Bond unleashed a shot from the left point that Kurtis Anton tipped in for a 2-0 lead. The \’Cats cut the \’Runners lead in half at 16:15 when a rebound caromed right to the stick of Daniel Gentzler to make it 2-1, a score that belied the dominance of the \’Runners 21-9 shot advantage.
The second period was not unlike the first with regard to the \’Runners puck possession and control. What was most obvious was the ability of the \’Runners to convert on those chances. It was only :42 seconds into the period when Patrick Kirtland fed Martin Sundstedt off the right wing boards, the goal chasing Musico and bring Kelly Andrew into the game in relief. Wichita Falls once again pulled to within a goal when Kyle Gallegos knocked in a rebound of a Kevin Liss shot from the blue line at 5:35. Undaunted, and stopped on their first three power play chances, Topeka scored a short handed goal at 12:01 as Cory Ramsey led a 2-on-1 down the left wing, dishing a perfect pass for Bryce Johnson who rifled it home for a 4-2 lead. Just over a minute later, Andrew tried to clear his zone by wrapping the puck up the left wing boards, but the clearing attempt was intercepted by Alec Hagaman and fired into the abandoned net for a 5-2 lead. Keeping a \”foot on the gas\” approach, Topeka scored again while shorthanded when Martin Sundstedt returned the favor, assisting Patrick Kirtland at 17:30 for a 6-2 lead in a period that Topeka outshot their host 20-6.
In the third, the Wildcats found some spark and life, scoring twice to make things a bit interesting down the stretch. At 6:25, Ryan Frost was on the spot to punch in the rebound of a Tyler Briola shot, and at 17:12, the \’Runners coughed up the puck resulting in a 3-on-1 break that J.T. Osborn buried upstairs to close to within 6-4. The RoadRunners took their timeout to settle the troops, and Wichita Falls used their timeout with just over a minute left and an offensive zone faceoff looming. Topeka weathered the frantic storm, with Cole Schneider netting his 20th of the year into the empty net at 19:33 for the 7-4 margin that gave Topeka their 41st win.
Topeka (41-9-5) is now 9-0-1 against the Wildcats (18-33-6) as the two teams square off one last time this season. For the Wildcats, Saturdays game is the last game of their season. For Topeka, their Magic Number has dropped to 5, as St. Louis won in Texas 4-2 on Friday night.