The Topeka Pilots needed an overtime hero Friday night against the Lone Star Brahmas, deadlocked at one after 60 minutes of regulation play.
Forward Michael Muschitiello was up for the task.
Using his speed and finesse to his advantage, Muschitiello raced in on the right wing and ripped a shot high, beating Brahmas goaltender Harrison Feeney 52 seconds into overtime and lifting the Pilots to a 2-1 victory at Landon Arena.
For Muschitiello, the tally was his sixth of the season. Topeka (10-6-0) has now won three overtime games on the season, along with two shootout victories.
“We’ve had some tight games, but I think this is where our conditioning pays off,” Muschitiello said. “On the goaI, I was able to use the defense as a screen on that play, and it paid off.”
Pilots head coach Simon Watson said the extra ice in the overtime gave his team more opportunity to showcase its speed versus a defensive and trap-style Lone Star defense.
“We’ve had that confidence in overtime to get it done,” Watson said. “It’s great to see us have that tenacity.”
After calling a timeout late in the third, Topeka garnered some late chances in regulation, attempting to snatch away the victory before the extra session. The Pilots outshot the Brahmas 12-9 in the third and each team had 33 shots in the contest.
The scoring opened on Friday at 6:32 of the first period, with newcomer Connor Zilisch tallying his first goal with the Pilots in his first game with the team. It was his third overall goal on the season.
Acquired from the Chippewa Steel, Zilisch worked his way into the slot area outside of the crease and knocked a rebound past Feeney, giving Topeka an early 1-0 lead. Muschitiello and forward Austin McCarthy picked up the assists on the play.
With the teams deadlocked at 11 shots apiece after one frame, Lone Star (6-7-2) broke through to even the game in the second period. Forward Andrew DeCarlo scored his first goal of the season at 2:58 of the frame, evening the score at 1-1.
The score remained deadlocked until Muschitiello’s overtime winner.
Pilots goaltender Emil Gransoe had a strong game in net, stopping 32 of 33 shots. Gransoe is now 7-3-0 on the season.
“We got huge saves when we needed them from Emil tonight,” Watson said. “He saw the puck well and kept us in the game.”
The two teams will go at it again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Landon Arena, with the second game of the series versus the Brahmas. Saturday will continue Military Appreciation Weekend, with specialty jerseys up for auction after the game.