Pilots knock off Jackalopes 3-2 for fifth straight win

The Topeka Pilots extended to a five-game winning streak with a victory Friday over the Odessa Jackalopes. 

Staying hot after a two-game sweep last weekend, Topeka (18-9-2) had two timely goals in the third period to break a 1-1 tie and Pilots goaltender Guy Blessing was stout in net late, keeping pucks in front of him.  

After tying the puck up behind the Topeka net, time ran out for Odessa (7-18-2), as the Pilots skated away with a 3-2 victory at the Stormont Vail Events Center. 

Topeka received goals from lesser known goal scorers in the third with defenseman Hugh Anderson netting his first goal of the season and defenseman Luc Salem netting his fifth tally. 

Pilots head coach Simon Watson said it was helping for his team to see a couple of different faces on the score sheet Friday, as forward Matthew Francois also scored for the Pilots, with his second goal of the season. 

“These guys have been working every day,” Watson said. “We’re all a part of this team, so to see guys that don’t have as many (goals) get a few tonight was great to see.” 

With the score tied at one, Anderson’s goal put the Pilots up 2-1 at 6:51 of the third. Skating down the right wing, Anderson’s shot beat goaltender Noah Ping on the glove side over the shoulder to put Topeka back in the lead. 

Salem’s tally at 9:10 came off of a broken play that worked in Topeka’s favor. After a pass from forward Austin McCarthy missed forward Connor Zilisch, it slipped to Salem. He skated in and from the left faceoff circle, he beat Ping for a 3-1 Pilots lead. 

Turning up the pressure, Odessa battled back to within one goal with a tally at 13:55, but Blessing would keep the Jackalopes from getting any closer. 

After a strong first period outshooting the Jackalopes 12-6, Topeka found themselves down 1-0. Francois evened it at one at 11:25 of the second, netting an unassisted goal.  

On the play, Francois took the puck towards the net and maneuvered it past Ping, who thought he had the post covered. It dropped in behind him to get the Pilots on the board. 

Topeka finished the game with a 42-29 shots on goal advantage. 

The Pilots and Jackalopes will finish their two-game series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday night at Landon Arena. The night will include the Pilots annual teddy bear toss, with new or gently used stuffed animals thrown onto the ice after the first Pilots goal. The stuffed animals will be going to local charities. 

There will also be a $2 sodas and $2 popcorn, as well as an on-ice autograph session following the game.