Resiliency Paid Off for the Topeka Pilots on Friday Night

Down 1-0 after 40 minutes of play despite numerous quality scoring chances, Topeka (2-0-0) used relentless pressure in the third period to rattle off two goals in just over a minute.

Topeka then added an empty-net tally late in regulation to give some breathing room, winning 3-1 over the Odessa Jackalopes at Landon Arena.

The Pilots outshot the Jackalopes 33-18 in the final two periods and 15-8 in the final 20 minutes.

“In a game like that, down by one goal after two periods, I told our guys to look for the positives,” Pilots Head Coach Simon Watson said. “They took the message to heart and went with it in the third period.”

Returning defenseman Max Finner got Topeka on the board at 5:26 of the period, evening the score at one and swinging the momentum. In 4-on-4 play due to offsetting minor penalties, Finner cut in from the blue line and made a nice move, beating goaltender Alex Camarre through his legs, as the puck trickled into the net.

Just one minute and 13 seconds later, at 6:39, forward Quinn Green scored his first goal of the season, giving the Pilots a 2-1 advantage while on the powerplay. Green grabbed a juicy rebound off of a nice shot by defenseman Brenden Rons and blistered it past Camarre.

“Quinn’s a highly-skilled player, and he finds his way to the crucial areas of the ice,” Watson said. “It was good to see him get that first goal tonight.”

From there, Topeka kept the pressure up, not letting off the gas to allow Odessa (0-1-1) back in the contest.

Forward Mason Vukonich, who finished the night with a goal and an assist, capped off the evening with an empty-net goal at 19:00 of the third, finishing off any chances of a comeback. Vukonich hustled past the Jackalopes defenders on the play, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

“Our fans were great tonight, and our boys fed off that,” Watson said. “It was a fun atmosphere to be a part of.”

The teams now turn to the final game of their three-game series, a 4:05 p.m. Sunday matinee at Landon Arena.