The Topeka Pilots had a rare off night on Friday against the Springfield Jr. Blues.
Topeka (25-11-3) got off to a strong start, leading 3-1 early in the second period, but Springfield (13-24-3) capped off a comeback with five straight goals, leading them to a 6-3 victory at Landon Arena.
“It was a matter of getting away from our game a little bit,” Pilots head coach Simon Watson said. “We made some poor mistakes that costed us goals and odd-man rushes, and we just weren’t sharp.”
After Pilots forward Connor ZIlisch gave Topeka a 3-1 lead at 1:08 of the middle period, the Jr. Blues responded with tallies at 8:19 and 16:09, making it 3-3 entering the third.
“The second period was the turning point,” Watson said. “Springfield pushed us hard on some pucks and took some momentum. They capitalized on our mistakes.”
Then, two more tallies in the first six minutes of the third gave Springfield a commanding 5-3 lead. Forward Cameron Wuesthoff gave the Jr. Blues their first lead of the night at 2:55, beating goaltender Guy Blessing.
Then, forward Jack Rhode made it 5-3 at 5:55 with a shot from the left faceoff circle eluding Blessing on a 2-on-1 break.
The Pilots pulled Blessing late in the contest, while on the powerplay, but a turnover led to a nail in the coffin, with forward Giovanni Carabelli ending any hopes at a comeback with an emptynet goal at 16:46.
In his fifth game with the Pilots, forward Matt Clark opened the scoring on Friday at 4:02 of the first period, beating goaltender Ryan Wilson for a 1-0 lead. Clark took a nice drop pass from Zilisch on the play and ripped a shot cleanly into the back of the net.
Springfield tied it up on a 2-on-1 break at 7:22 of the first, as defenseman Billy Simms jumped into the play to make it 1-1. Simms had a goal and two assists on the evening.
Zilisch would give the Pilots a lead back before the first intermission with a nice tic-tac-toe play leading to a tap-in in front of the Wilson. Zilisch took a feed from forward Austin McCarthy and poked it past Wilson.
With a still solid record of 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, the Pilots will look to rebound Saturday night at Landon Arena.
Saturday’s game will be Community Heroes night, with first responders, military members, dispatchers, medical providers, educational providers and more receiving $5 tickets with an employee ID. There will also be an on-ice autograph session directly after Saturday’s game, open to all fans.