The Topeka Pilots played down to the wire Friday night against the Odessa Jackalopes.
Down 1-0 in the third period, Topeka (10-8-0) got a tying goal at 10:01 on a rebound. Forward Dallas Tulik scored his 12thgoal of the year on the play, setting up a momentous finish.
Still knotted at one, at 18:14, Topeka forward Cole Thiessen was sent off for a two-minute minor for holding, giving Odessa (5-8-1) a late powerplay.
Then with less than a minute in regulation, defenseman Connor Fedorek’s blast from the blue line beat Pilots goaltender Emil Gransoe, propelling the Jackalopes to a 2-1 victory at Ector County Coliseum.
Topeka had a number of good chances each period, with goaltender Kade Phipps playing strong in net for the Jackalopes, with 36 saves on the evening. Gransoe also played well, with 34 saves.
Odessa got the scoring started at 8:56 of the first period, with forward Kyle Herbster netting his fourth tally of the season.
Topeka had 14 shots on goal in the opening frame, but they could not solve Phipps.
A scoreless second period saw a combined 29 shots on goal between the teams, with Odessa holding a 17-12 advantage in the middle frame.
With Tulik’s goal in the third, the pressure started to mount for the Pilots. Adding to the intensity, a scrap between Pilots forward Connor Zilitsch and Jackalopes forward Connor Smith occurred at 11:06, setting up an intense final nine minutes.
The two teams will tangle again at 7:11 p.m. Saturday, in game two of a three-game series.