Pilots drop Sunday matinee against Jackalopes

The Topeka Pilots clawed and battled their way back in the third period of Sunday’s contest with the Odessa Jackalopes. 

After scoring the equalizing goal halfway through the frame, Topeka then looked for the game-winning goal in regulation and in overtime, tied at two. 

Topeka (17-16-6) had multiple chances to end the game, but they could not solve goaltender Alex Camarre, sending the game to a shootout. 

In the second round of the shootout, Odessa forward Michael Sacco deked and beat goaltender McLean Dorr on the backhand. In the third round, Dorr stopped forward Kyle Herbster, leaving it up to the Pilots to equalize the game and send it to sudden death. 

Forward Michael Muschitiello came in and got a clean shot off on Camarre, but he could not elevate it over Camarre’s pads, as the Jackalopes escaped with a 3-2 win at Landon Arena. 

With the shootout loss, the Pilots picked up five out of six possible points on the weekend, to move back into a tie for fourth place in the NAHL South Division with the Shreveport Mudbugs. 

“We had some big chances there in the third period and in overtime,” Pilots coach Simon Watson said. “Odessa made some big saves, and we couldn’t elevate the puck when we needed to.” 

Forward Valdemar Ahlberg scored the game-tying goal at 9:16 of the third, while on the powerplay. After Camarre made the initial save, Ahlberg followed up on a loose puck in the crease and rammed it into the net, knotting the score. 

The Pilots opened the scoring on Sunday, with forward Joel Brandinger netting his second tally of the season. Brandinger skated the length of the ice with the puck and fired a shot from near the blue line on Camarre. 

The puck ricocheted off of Camarre’s blocker and landed in the net, giving the Pilots a 1-0 lead at 2:24 of the first period. 

After the score remained 1-0 through one frame, forward Zach Heintz picked up two second period goals, giving him 10 goals this season. Heintz scored at 2:52 and 14:22, giving the Jackalopes a 2-1 lead at second intermission. 

The Pilots held a slim 34-33 shots on goal advantage for the contest, with Dorr making 30 saves and Camarre making 32 saves. 

Topeka now heads on the road until March 1. The Pilots face off on Jan. 25-26 in Shreveport, La. versus the Mudbugs.