Pilots score three in the third period, knock off Ice Wolves 4-3

The Topeka Pilots were in a similar scenario, trailing after two periods to the New Mexico Ice Wolves on Saturday night. 

But Topeka (27-12-3) came out ready to play in the all-important third period. 

Down 2-1 entering the final 20 minutes, the Pilots rattled off three consecutive goals and held a surging Ice Wolves team down the stretch, winning 4-3 at Landon Arena to earn a series split. 

The victory pushed the Pilots back into third place in the NAHL South Division, as the Shreveport Mudbugs fell to the Odessa Jackalopes on Saturday night. 

“We were heavier on pucks and heavy in battles tonight,” Pilots head coach Simon Watson said. “We defended pretty well, and it was a pretty good game all-around.” 

Pilots forward Quinn Green and Pilots defenseman Luc Salem each had two tallies in the contest to pace the Pilots. Both Green and Salem will represent the Pilots at the NAHL’s Top Prospects Tournament on Feb. 17-18, along with Pilots forward Michael Muschitiello. 

Salem’s first goal of the evening came with the Pilots trailing 2-1 early in the third period. With Topeka on a 5-on-3 powerplay, Salem took a feed from forward Austin McCarthy and beat goaltender Garrett Mackay with a one-timer, making it 2-2. 

Then, it was Salem giving Topeka a 3-2 lead at 6:42, as he snuck into the slot and beat Mackay top-shelf for the Pilots first lead of the series. 

Green had the eventual game-winner at 17:28, knocking home a rebound after Muschitiello put the puck on net. 

The Ice Wolves set up a tense ending, coming right back with a goal at 17:47 to make it 4-3 in the final minutes. 

But Topeka would hold on till the final horn sounded, as goaltender Guy Blessing made a couple of big stops down the stretch to earn the victory. Blessing had a better evening in net after a tough Friday night, stopping 24 of 27 shots he faced. 

After New Mexico took an early 1-0 lead, Green tied the game up with a goal at 17:31 of the first. His slap shot from the point beat Mackay just five seconds into the Pilots first powerplay of the evening. Topeka ended the night 2-for-5 on the man-advantage. 

The only tally of the second period came at 13:08, as forward Drew Lorinchak beat Blessing for his sixth goal of the season. Lorinchak also had New Mexico’s goal in the first period. 

The Pilots now head on a short two-game road trip to Amarillo, as they will face the NAHL South-leading Bulls on Feb. 8-9.