The Topeka Pilots and Amarillo Bulls have had a pattern of tightly contested games, playing two one-goal games this season coming into Friday night’s contest.
Friday’s game had a similar feeling, with the Pilots leading 1-0 after two periods.
But, unlike the other two nights, Topeka (8-2-1) found a way to grab an insurance goal Friday, with forward Shawn Kennedy beating goaltender Ethan Lahmon midway through the third period.
Combined with a stellar goaltending performance from goaltender Jakub Dobes, stopping all 47 shots he faced, the Pilots held on late and knocked off the Bulls 2-0 at the Stormont Vail Events Center on Faith and Family Night.
Topeka’s penalty kill was in full force on Friday night, killing off nine Amarillo powerplays.
“We were on the penalty kill for a lot of the game,” Pilots head coach Simon Watson said. “That was some adversity to fight through. We just battled all night. Our compete level was really good all night.”
Kennedy’s goal at 7:01 of the third period was huge for the Pilots, as he fired home a rebound off a shot from forward Nick Nardecchia. After tallying 15 goals and 19 assists last season with the Aberdeen Wings, it was Kennedy’s first goal of the 2019-2020 season.
The third period also included a sequence of events that led to the ejection of Bulls head coach Rocky Russo at 15:55 of the third period. The stoppage also included a delay of game penalty on Amarillo, as well as a cross-checking penalty on Pilots forward Nick Nardecchia.
Defenseman Luc Salem opened the scoring Friday night, netting his first tally of the season at 8:23 of the first period. Forward Kyler Yeo picked up the primary assist on the play, setting up Salem with a slick pass to the slot. That brings Salem up to seven points on the season, having also tallied six assists.
The Pilots penalty kill unit was active often in the first two periods, killing off five Amarillo powerplays.
Topeka’s powerplay unit had its first opportunity at the end of the second period, heading into the third period with a 5-on-3 powerplay for 43 seconds, but they could not take advantage.
The two teams will play a third and final game on at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night. It will be Pucks & Paws, with special “dog tickets” available at the Helping Hands Humane Society for $5, as well as at the box office.