McCarthy nets overtime game-winner to give Pilots 4-3 victory

The Topeka Pilots only lead Friday night came with 11 seconds remaining in overtime.

But it was the biggest lead of the night, as Topeka (16-16-5) scored the game-winning goal with just mere seconds remaining, winning 4-3 at Landon Arena in dramatic fashion.

The play was set up after a late overtime penalty to Odessa forward Carl Skarstrom at 3:58 of the extra session.

On the play, Pilots forward Austin McCarthy took a one-timer from the left faceoff circle off a feed from forward Hugh Quinn. The puck beat goaltender Alex Camarre, narrowly trickling between his legs, and the puck slowly rolled towards the open net.

Forward Brendan Schultz was there to tap the puck home after the puck had crossed the line, earning the Pilots a hard-fought and gritty victory. McCarthy was credited with the goal on the play.

The Pilots finished the night 2-for-6 on the powerplay.

“The powerplay came up clutch in overtime,” Pilots head coach Simon Watson said. “We showed some resolve tonight coming back from three one-goal deficits and finally got the lead in overtime to earn the two points.”

Starting a three-game series with major implications as the NAHL South Division race heats up, the Pilots came out ready to play on Friday night, peppering Camarre early.

Forward Kaiden Scott had the best chance in the opening minutes, with Scott’s shot clanking firmly off the crossbar but staying out of the net, keeping the game scoreless.

Odessa had several good chances of its own and opened the scoring at 14:54. Forward Connor Smith netted his seventh goal of the season on the play, for a 1-0 Odessa lead.

As they did all night, the Pilots came right back. At 18:44 of the first period, forward Valdemar Ahlberg continued his hot streak, scoring his 10th goal of the season. Ahlberg’s goal came on a juicy rebound in the slot, knotting the score at one entering the first intermission.

With the teams deadlocked in shots on goal at 15 and deadlocked on the scoreboard, Odessa regained the lead at 10:04 of the second period. Defenseman Brendan Coughlin fired the puck on the net from the blue line, beating goaltender Emil Gransoe, who was screened on the play.

Less than two minutes later, forward Connor Zilisch scored tallied his eight goal of the season on the powerplay, evening the game back at two. Zilisch’s goal came off a slick feed from defenseman Cole Thiessen, who earned his 21st helper of the season.

Before the end of the frame, defenseman Connor Fedorek gave the Jackalopes a 3-2 lead at 16:58.

Not to be outdone, however, forward Quinn Green took a broken play and beat Camarre, tying the contest at three heading into the second intermission. Green flipped the puck from the slot on a backhander after McCarthy poked the puck to his stick.

Despite several good chances in the third, neither team could find the game-winning goal in regulation, sending the contest to overtime.

The two teams will play game two of the three-game series at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Landon Arena. First responders with photo ID’s can get up to six tickets for $7. Sodas will also be $2 all night.