Pilots sweep Jackalopes with 5-1 victory

On a festive night with teddy bears and holiday cheer, the Topeka Pilots continued their recent offensive prowess. 

Now winners of six straight, Topeka (19-9-2) took care of business Saturday night, jumping out to a 5-0 lead en route to a 5-1 win at Landon Arena in front of 1,138 fans. 

On the Pilots annual teddy bear toss night, forward Shawn Kennedy got the Pilots off and running in the first period, sending a barrage of teddy bears onto the ice. 

“It was an energetic game for our guys, and it was good to get the first goal out of the way early,” Pilots head coach Simon Watson said. “Our guys came ready to play.” 

The Pilots tacked on four more in the second period, including forward Lucas Sandoval’s first goal of the season, as his brother Dominic also picked up an assist on the play.  

The reaction between the Sandoval twins after the goal was of pure elation. 

“To see a guy like Lucas get his first goal at the junior level, it was such a special moment for him,” Watson said. “It just adds to the depth scoring to start to see some of our guys get going.” 

In the third, Odessa (7-19-2) got on the board, but goaltender Josh Langford would not let the Jackalopes any closer than 5-1. Langford stopped 17 of 18 shots on goal, improving to 3-0-0 since joining the Pilots. 

Kennedy’s goal at 12:42 put Topeka up 1-0, as he raced around several defenders and slipped a shot past goaltender Noah Ping. 

Forward Matthew Francois extended the lead to 2-0 with his second goal of the weekend just 23 seconds into the second period. Francois’ goal came off of a rebound, after forward Michael Muschitiello was denied by Ping. 

After the tally from Lucas Sandoval pushed it to 3-0, forward Kaiden Scott extended the lead to 4-0 with a strong individual effort to beat Ping. 

The final tally of the second period came at 19:07, as forward Quinn Green picked up his ninth goal, deflecting a shot from defenseman Jordan Kovacs. 

The Pilots will now hit the road for a six-game road trip, beginning Dec. 20-21, as they head to NYTEX Sports Centre to face the Lone Star Brahmas. Lone Star currently leads the NAHL South Division with 47 points. 

Pilots Three Stars 

1st star: Matthew Francois, one goal, one assist. 

2nd star: Shawn Kennedy, one goal, one assist. 

3rd star: Dominic Sandoval, one assist.