The Topeka Pilots stayed persistent on Friday night, but they could not get the all-important game-winner in overtime.
Deadlocked at three in a tense see-saw battle, the Corpus Christi IceRays slipped a shot past goaltender Max Karlenzig 2:34 into overtime, giving the IceRays a 4-3 victory at the Stormont Vail Events Center in the season opener.
Topeka (0-0-1) had the momentum after scoring twice early in the third period to overcome a 2-1 deficit and take a 3-2 lead.
The lead stood until late in the third period when forward Noah Bull’s fluttering shot beat Karlenzig to even it at three, taking the game to overtime.
Noah Bull’s brother, forward Shane Bull, had the game-winning goal in overtime, as he finished the evening with a hat trick.
“I thought we definitely played a strong game,” Pilots head coach Simon Watson said. “I thought our compete and structure definitely improved as the game went on. Of course, you want to get two points, but I thought our guys fought the way we wanted.”
Corpus Christi got off to an early lead, with Shane Bull firing a rebound off a shot from defenseman Tyler Orban at 1:02 of the first.
Karlenzig was strong for the remainder first, stopping the other eight shots on goal he faced.
Goaltender Jeremy Forman also had a solid first period, stopping seven shots on goal.
Topeka had several quality chances but ended the period scoreless, heading into first intermission trailing 1-0.
After the final whistle of the first period sounded, both teams picked up minor penalties, with the Pilots sending two to the box, giving the IceRays a powerplay to start the second.
Shane Bull then netted his second for the IceRays at 4:38, after a miscue by Karlenzig, as he attempted to clear the zone and could not do so.
The momentum began to shift midway through the period. Forward Shane Hathaway took a shot from the left wing through Forman’s five-hole, cutting the deficit in half at 12:34 of the second.
The Pilots’ energy picked up with the goal, as they began to develop more scoring chances.
Karlenzig made a big save late in the frame, sprawling out to make a diving stop with just seconds to go in the frame to preserve the one-goal deficit.
The Pilots determination led to a voracious start to the third period. With a screen in front of Forman, defenseman Jordan Gonzalez netted his first goal of the season with a seeing-eye shot beating him high stick-side.
With the score tied at two, the Pilots continued to pile on the pressure. This led to an eventual lead for the Pilots, the first of the season.
Forward Alexander Oberg picked up the goal, taking a nice dish from forward Luke Suter and beating Forman again stick-side at 6:12.
Topeka and Corpus Christi will be back in action again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night at the Stormont Vail Events Center. Late skate will immediately follow Saturday’s game, with a $5 entry fee and $3 skate rental for the post-game festivities.