Pilots Finish Strong to Split the Weekend

The Topeka Pilots can breathe a sigh of relief after Saturday night’s tense finish at Landon Arena.
Tied at two with just over two minutes to play, forward Connor Zilisch gave Topeka (12-10-2) a 3-2 lead. An empty-net goal by defenseman Brenden Rons then pushed the lead to 4-2.
But the Shreveport Mudbugs did not go away. Forward CJ McGee slipped a shot past goaltender Emil Gransoe with just eight seconds to play, setting up a gritty finish.
Topeka held on the final seconds, preserving a 4-3 win on Family Night, in front of 1,214 energetic fans.
“Effort was what we were looking for tonight,” Pilots head coach Simon Watson said. “We got a 60-minute effort and were relentless. I’m proud of the way we competed.”
The game-winning goal came off of the stick of Zilisch at 17:53, with the Pilots on a powerplay, after a five-minute major penalty was assessed to defenseman Dakota Concannon for cross-checking at 14:35.
“It was a gritty goal by Connor,” Watson said. “He went to a tough area and got rewarded for his effort.”
Rons’ empty-net goal was also his first goal of the season, with his teammates reveling in the moment, hugging him along the bench after his tally.
Forward Matthew Francois got the Pilots started at 3:36 of the first period, sneaking a shot past goaltender Maiszon Balboa for a 1-0 lead.
Outshooting the Pilots 18-5, Shreveport evened up the contest at at 17:37 of the first period, with forward Ethan Harrison tallying his 10th goal of the season.
Forward Kyler Yeo had the sole goal of the second period, scoring a short-handed goal at 10:55 of the second period. Yeo had a breakaway on his goal, flipping a shot past Balboa on a nice individual effort.
Mudbugs forward Jay Feiwell brought the game back even at two at 4:39 beating Gransoe and setting up the wild finish.
With the win, Topeka moves back into third place in the NAHL South Division. The Pilots will be back in action Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at Landon Arena, versus the Springfield Jr. Blues. Friday’s contest will include $2 beer, hot dogs and sodas.