The Topeka Pilots never trailed Friday night against the Springfield Jr. Blues.
Forward Shawn Kennedy had two goals, goaltender Jakub Dobes made 42 saves, and the Pilots withstood a barrage of 19 shots on goal by the Jr. Blues in the third period, winning 3-1 at the Nelson Center.
Topeka (10-4-1) led 3-0 after two periods and came close to shutting out Springfield (4-6-1), if it were not for a late goal from the Jr. Blues at 15:33 of the third period.
Kennedy opened the scoring late in the first at 19:56, beating goaltender Ryan Wilson right off of the faceoff. Kennedy’s quick wrist shot beat Wilson low on the glove-side, giving the Pilots a much-needed powerplay goal, an area they have struggled early on in the season.
Midway through the second period, shortly following fisticuffs between Pilots forward Lucas Sandoval and Jr. Blues defenseman Jordan Krone, the Pilots struck again.
Defenseman Austin Cleveland was credited with the second Pilots goal, as his shot missed wide, but was knocked in by Jr. Blues defenseman Noah Marino. Marino was looking to clear the puck on the play, but a hit by Pilots forward Matthew Francois affected his trajectory, sending the errant shot past Wilson at 11:55.
For Cleveland, it was his first goal in the NAHL.
At 16:46 of the frame, Kennedy pushed the Pilots lead to 3-0 with an outstanding individual effort, racing through two Jr. Blues defensemen and ripping a shot high-glove past Wilson.
Facing a hefty deficit, the Jr. Blues turned up the offensive pressure in the third period. Dobes was up for the challenge, stopping 18 of 19 third period Springfield shots, preserving Topeka’s lead.
The two teams will battle again at 6:05 p.m., with Topeka looking to win the weekend series.