Appearing destined to cling to a one-goal advantage, the Topeka Pilots had a disappointing outcome to Saturday night’s affair with the Kenai River Brown Bears.
Leading 1-0 after a an action-packed and penalty filled first two periods, Topeka (17-19-7) had its sights set on maintaining a shutout and leaving Sodoltna, Alaska with three out a possible four points, after falling in a shootout on Friday night.
Kenai River had other plans, however. Two goals in the third period, including the game-winning goal with less than one minute to play, doomed the Pilots, as they fell 2-1 at Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Defenseman Preston Weeks cut in from the blue line and took a feed in front of goaltender Emil Gransoe, beating him to knot the game at one at 9:55 of the third period. Forward Logan Ritchie made the play to set up Ritchie, giving Weeks his third goal of the season.
Still with a shot to win the game in regulation and earn the series split, Topeka continued to push after the score evened at one.
The Pilots then caught a break, with Kenai River defenseman Connor Canterbury heading to the penalty box at 15:07, for a two-minute slashing minor. On the only powerplay of the night for Topeka, the Pilots could not capitalize, leaving the game tied heading into the final minutes of regulation.
That’s when Kenai River made the biggest play of the night. In the final minute of regulation, defenseman Markuss Komuls pounced on a rebound, chipping the puck over the outstretched arms of a sprawling Gransoe. The puck fluttered into the net, giving the Brown Bears their first lead of the night at 19:28 of the third period, which held to the final whistle.
Each team played aggressively Saturday night, with the teams coming for 186 total penalty minutes on the evening. Several players received game-misconducts on the evening.
The Pilots netted their lone goal of the night at 4:09 of the first period. Forward Quinn Green, who also netted a tally in Friday’s contest, was credited with his 19th goal of the season on the play. With a shot from the blue line from defenseman Cam Cervone, Green redirected the shot, as it slipped through goaltender Gavin Enright’s pads.
Topeka now continues its Alaskan adventure on Feb. 8-9, heading to Fairbanks to face the Ice Dogs.