Pilots can’t hold late lead, fall 4-3 in shootout

The Topeka Pilots were a mere eight seconds from a 3-2 victory on Friday night, facing off against the Corpus Christi IceRays. 

Corpus Christi, however, had other plans for the game’s final scoreline. 

At 19:52 of the third period, forward Ryan Coughlin knocked home a rebound, knotting the game at 3-3 with a powerplay goal. 

After neither team could end it in sudden-death overtime, the game proceeded to a shootout. 

Four tense rounds later, the Pilots succumbed to the IceRays, falling 4-3 at the American Bank Center. 

The game-winning goal in the shootout came off of the stick of forward Cole Golden, who beat Pilots goaltender Guy Blessing on a nice backhanded shot. 

Pilots forward Austin McCarthy had a chance to extend the game, but his shot was denied by the right post, as the puck ricocheted off the pipe, then off goaltender Cal Sandquist and stayed out of the net. 

Despite the loss, the Pilots currently remain in first place in the NAHL South Division, with a record of 11-4-2. The IceRays improve to 9-5-3 with the victory. 

Sandquist got the victory, stopping the 12 shots he faced, in relief of goaltender Jeremy Forman, who surrendered three goals on 14 shots. 

Forward Kaiden Scott opened the scoring Friday night, with his third goal of the season at 9:39 of the first period. The tally was the lone goal of the first, as the Pilots led 1-0 at first intermission. 

IceRays forward Shane Bull evened it at 1-1 at 1:49 of the second period, taking a feed off a wraparound and beating Blessing low-glove side. 

The Pilots took the lead back at 10:37 of the frame, as defenseman Luc Salem netted his third goal of the season, beating Forman along the ice. 

Looking to extend the lead to 3-1, forward Connor Zilisch raced in on a 2-on-1 break. Opting to take the shot, Zilisch ripped a shot high-blocker side past Forman. 

The Pilots ended the second up 3-1, as they looked to preserve the lead in the third period. 

Bull cut the lead to 3-2 at 5:07 of the third, with another wraparound shot leading to a goal. 

The Pilots 3-2 lead stood until late in the third, with Coughlin tying it. 

Topeka will look to rebound and split the series on at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night, at the American Bank Center.