Pilots shut out Jr. Blues 7-0

TOPEKA, Kan. – Seven different players scored and Topeka goaltender McLean Dorr recorded his first shutout of the NAHL season Saturday night as the Pilots went into the Christmas break with a convincing 7-0 victory over Springfield at Landon Arena.

In front of the largest crowd of the season (2,202), the Pilots scored early and often and never looked back. Danish forward Valdemar Ahlberg drove hard from the wing and slipped the puck past Springfield starting goaltender Jack Williams only 2:45 into the game for what proved to be the game-winner. Only 20 seconds later, Connor Zilisch cleanly beat Williams with a 20-foot laser. Ahlberg and defenseman Jordan Gonzalez assisted.

“Our guys really fed off the energy in the arena tonight,” Watson said. “It was an incredible atmosphere.”

The Pilots didn’t sit on their two-goal lead. On what seemed to be harmless shot on Williams, Topeka forward Dylan Montie drove to the net the chopped the puck loose. Teammate Kaiden Scott swooped in and finished into an open net to make it 3-0. At that point, Springfield made a goaltending change as Caleb Hannon replaced Williams.

Three minutes later, Quinn Green greeted Hannon with his 11th goal of the season, taking a nice blue line feed from Ahlberg and ripping a 10-footer that trickled past the goalie. Rookie defenseman Austin Cleveland also assisted.

“Our guys really fed off the energy in the arena tonight,” Watson said. “It was an incredible atmosphere.”

Dorr, who helped shut down a pair of Springfield power plays in the first period, was rock solid in the second as the Pilots were outshot 13-8.

“He’s going to be big for us down the stretch, so we’re happy to see him get the shutout tonight,” Watson said.

Teammate Dylan Montie set up Hugh Quinn with a nice feed from the right wing, and Quinn beat Hannon cleanly from 20 feet out.

Then, with just under three minutes remaining in the second, Austin McCarthy took a long feed from Cleveland and beat Hannon with a perfectly placed shot for a six-goal cushion.

Springfield reinserted Williams for the final 20 minutes, and Pilots winger Michael Muschitiello capped the scoring with just under five minutes to go, finishing off Ahlberg’s pass from the slot and beating Williams just under the crossbar.

“Our guys earned it tonight,” Pilots head coach Simon Watson said. “We worked hard and stuck to the game plan. Our systems were good, and we took care of the puck when we needed to.”

Springfield finished 0-for-4 on the power play, while the Pilots went scoreless on two tries.
The Jr. Blues finished with a 27-24 edge in shots.

The Pilots will be on the road for the next several weekends, including a pair Sunday and Monday at league-leading Amarillo. Topeka returns home Jan. 18, 19 & 20 with a three-game set against Odessa.