The Topeka Pilots kept pace with the NAHL’s top team, the Amarillo Bulls, on Friday night.
But Topeka (31-14-6) could not close it out in the final 10 minutes, entering the final half of the third leading 1-0.
Amarillo (39-8-4) scored three goals late, including an empty-net goal that sealed the game at 18:24, as the Pilots fell to the Bulls 3-1 at the Budweiser Bull Pen.
The Bulls fired a whopping 51 shots on Pilots goaltender Josh Langford, as the Frisco, Texas native made 49 saves, taking the narrow loss. It was Langford’s first regulation loss with the Pilots, as he dropped to 9-1-2 since joining Topeka.
Pilots forward Shawn Kennedy opened Friday’s scoring, netting a goal just as a powerplay expired, beating goaltender Max Gutjahr from just outside of the crease. Forward Connor Zilisch set up Kennedy’s goal, with a no-look pass from behind the net right to Kennedy.
The Pilots went 0-for-5 on the evening on the powerplay, while Amarillo went 1-for-7.
Amarillo evened it at one at 10:17 of the third while on the powerplay, with a one-timer from the point beating Langford. Defenseman Noah Carlin was credited with the goal, his sixth of the season.
Forward Gleb Murtazin put the Bulls ahead 2-1 with a tally at 14:56 of the third, beating Langford on a 3-on-1 break.
Looking for a chance to equalize with an extra skater, the Pilots opted to pull Langford late.
Forward Matt Allen took advantage, netting his 25th of the season at 18:24 to put the game out of reach for Topeka.
The Pilots will look to avenge Friday’s loss and split the series on Saturday. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m.