Pilots Soar Past The Jackalopes for Opening Night

The first game in Topeka Pilots history amassed an astounding 13 combined goals.

When the dust settled, it was Topeka (1-0-0) who came out with its first victory in franchise history, winning 7-6 in a shootout at Landon Arena.

Forward Austin McCarthy had the game-winner in the shootout, his fourth goal of the night.

Leading 4-2 after two periods, the Pilots looked in control heading into the final frame. Odessa (0-0-1) battled its way back in the third period, with the game tied at six into overtime.

Chances abound, neither team could break through in the extra session, sending the game to a three-man shootout.

Forward Dallas Tulik opened the shootout with a nice tally, giving the Pilots a 1-0 shootout lead. McCarthy then sent fans home happy, deking goaltender CJ Hapward and flipping a backhanded shot into the back of the net, giving Topeka a 2-0 shootout victory.

“It’s been something I’ve been practicing for a while now,” McCarthy said. “I saw the opening and it worked. I’m so happy to get this victory”

For McCarthy, he said it was the first time since his high school hockey play in Michigan that he scored three or more goals.

“He was just dynamite out there tonight,” Pilots Head Coach Simon Watson said. “It was fun to watch. It’s great for him to get that recognition.”

Odessa struck early on Thursday, putting Topeka on its heels. Forward Jared Christy got the scoring started at 2:02, giving the Jackalopes a 1-0 lead.

It didn’t take long, however, for the Pilots to strike back. McCarthy scored the first official goal in the team’s history at 6:35, knotting the score at one.

“We were resilient all night,” Watson said. “We’ll look at the footage and clean things up, but we fought.”

Each team had several additional good looks throughout the first, but neither team could convert until late in the frame.

At 18:58, Christy had his second goal of the night, using a nice move in the slot to beat goaltender Sam Metcalf. Metcalf got the victory on the night with 32 saves on 38 shots

Not to be outdone, returning forward Zeke Zeier leveled it up for the Pilots just 42 seconds later, ripping a shot glove-side high past goaltender Alex Camarre.

The second period started strong for Topeka, with two goals in the first three minutes of play. Forward Nick Woodward beat Camarre at 1:20 of the second period, giving Topeka its first lead in franchise history.

McCarthy added his second tally of the night at the three minute mark of the frame, which held into the third period.

The two teams now head into the second game of the three-game series. Puck drops at 7:05 p.m. Friday night at Landon Arena.