Pilots rally twice for OT win over Shreveport

TOPEKA, Kan. – Topeka forward Brendan Schultz scored with 34 seconds left in overtime and goaltender Emil Gransoe turned aside 40 shots Saturday night as the Pilots rallied twice for a 4-3 North American Hockey League victory over Shreveport.

The two teams finish the weekend series with a 4:05 p.m. rematch Sunday afternoon at Landon Arena.

The Pilots, now 14-10-2-1 in the NAHL South Division, found themselves down 2-0 early in the game and 3-2 late until Connor Zilisch’s goal with 5:29 remaining in regulation to force overtime. The Mudbugs (11-11-1-3) outshot the Pilots 5-4 in the extra session with Gransoe coming up with several big saves, but it was Schultz who chipped a goalmouth feed from Austin McCarthy over the shoulder of Shreveport goalie Maiszon Balboa for the game-winner.

“That was a statement win for this team,” said Topeka head coach Simon Watson. “To be down a couple of times and to stay with it says a lot about this group.”

Shreveport, the defending NAHL champion, raced to a 2-0 lead barely six minutes into the game. Dakota Concannon beat Gransoe in a goalmouth scramble at the 3:13 mark, and three minutes later Lukass Sicevs pounded home an errant clearing pass for a power-play tally.

Gransoe managed to hold his team close as the Pilots were outshot 20-8 in the first period, and sure enough Topeka’s McCarthy cut the deficit in half with a power-play goal halfway thru the period. McCarthy took a feed from Schultz and sent a laser from 20 feet out past Balboa. Defenseman Max Finner also assisted.

With just under five minutes to play in the first, Pilots forward Valdemar Ahlberg went off for elbowing, and Schultz was called for tripping 19 seconds later to give Shreveport a 5-on-3 power play. But the penalty killers were perfect.

“That was actually a big moment in this game,” said Watson. “Any time you can hold a team like Shreveport off the board on a 5-on-3 is a momentum-shifter.”

The Pilots managed to pull even with only 1:54 remaining in the second period as winger Michael Muschitiello scored his 9th of the season, firing a bad-angle shot past Balboa. Defenseman Brenden Rons and Ahlberg assisted.

The Shreveport power play put the visitors up 3-2 halfway through the third period as Timothy Clifton scored his first of the season, ringing a wrister off the post and past Gransoe. But four minutes later Zilisch netted his 5th of the season, finishing off a 2-on-1 break and beating Balboa to the short side from 15 feet out. Muschitiello and defenseman Cole Thiessen assisted.

Shreveport finished with a 43-27 edge in shots on goal. The Mudbugs went 2-7 on the power play, while Topeka was 1-4.