The Topeka Pilots struggled to develop a sense of cohesion and could not keep pace with the Amarillo Bulls on Saturday night.
Lacking fluidity, Topeka surrendered three goals in the opening 20 minutes, putting the Pilots in a tough hole.
Despite having a better second and third periods, Topeka (18-24-7) could not catch up to the NAHL South Division-leading Amarillo Bulls, falling 5-2 in front of 1,479 fans at Landon Arena.
Bulls forward Logan Jenuwine had a natural hat trick in the contest to pace the Bulls.
Trailing 4-0 after two periods, Topeka netted two tallies in the third, but it was too little too late against a powerful Amarillo squad.
“Amarillo showed us whey they are at the top of our division,” Pilots coach Simon Watson said. “They took advantage of the mistakes we made. It was a letdown after how we wanted to respond following Friday’s game.”
Forward Gabriel Seger opened the scoring at 7:36 of the first period, on Amarillo’s first powerplay of the evening. The Bulls came in to Saturday’s contest with the NAHL’s best powerplay, with nearly a 30 percent success rate.
Amarillo’s leading scorer, Jenuwine, then beat Pilots goaltender McLean Dorr twice in quick succession, tacking on goals at 12:29 and 13:46, to make it 3-0 Bulls. The tallies were Jenuwine’s 45th and 46th of the season, as he finished the evening at 47 goals on the season.
Shots on goal after one period favored Amarillo, with a slim 10-9 margin.
Jenuwine completed the natural hat trick with another powerplay marker at 4:38 of the second period, extending the Bulls’ lead to 4-0.
Despite outshooting the Bull 13-11 in the second period, Topeka struggled to create quality chances. Amarillo had several more good looks through the frame, including a breakaway on Dorr late in the period, but the score remained 4-0 heading into second intermission.
Topeka’s third period tallies came off the sticks of forwards Valdemar Ahlberg and Connor Zilisch, coming at 2:26 and 15:35 of the period. Amarillo also tacked on another goal in the third period, with forward Ryan Lautenbach beating Dorr.
Topeka, who trails the Corpus Christi by six points for the fourth and final playoff spot, will face off against the Ice Rays on March 8-9 at Landon Arena, with a vital four points on the line.
“Next weekend is a make or break weekend for us,” Watson said. “If we get four points, we’ll be in good shape. It’s a great opportunity for our guys.”