RoadRunners rally, earn split in Amarillo

AMARILLO, Tex. – Peyton Frantti’s power-play goal two minutes into the third period proved to be the game-winner Saturday night as the Topeka RoadRunners rallied from an early two-goal deficit and defeated Amarillo 5-4 in NAHL action at the Amarillo Civic Center.
The outcome enabled the RoadRunners (11-14-2-1) to split the weekend series. On Friday night, Topeka jumped out to an early 2-0 only to have the Bulls rally and eventually win 7-5. The Runners remain in a tie for fourth place in the NAHL South with Corpus Christi (25 points), and return home to face the Bulls again next weekend prior to the Christmas break.
Saturday night’s game, much like Friday’s, was tight. After the Bulls went up 2-0 just eight minutes into the game, newly acquired Brayden Schiff cut the deficit in half for the Runners just 15 seconds after Amarillo’s second goal as his centering pass deflected off an Amarillo defenseman.
Three minutes later Topeka defenseman Jack DeMatteo scored his first of the season, with assists from Will Schlagenhauf and Jeff Makowski.
The Bulls regained their lead with 6:00 remaining in the first as Brendan Walkom beat Topeka goalie Mike Rockwell (39 saves) from 25 feet out, but the RoadRunners would take over from there.
Defenseman Matt Barnes gained the puck in the neutral zone and stepped over the blue line before snapping a 30-footer past Amarillo goalie Nikita Babintsev only 18 seconds into the period. Max Harper then put the Runners in front for good with a quick release from 15 feet out that beat Babintsev cleanly. Defenseman Devon Fields assisted on both goals.
Frantti gave Topeka some breathing room by converting on the power play two minutes into the third, finishing off some precise passing from John DeRoche and Makowski.
The Bulls pressed late, and made it a one-goal game halfway through the period with a power-play goal of their own, but Rockwell was at his best in the third. Amarillo was awarded a power play with just under a minute to go, and then pulled Babintsev for a 6-on-4 advantage, but Rockwell came up with 5 big saves in tight to preserve the victory.
The RoadRunners on Friday night came out on fire as Alex Frye and Makowski both scored to give the visitors a 2-0 lead before the game was two minutes old. But Amarillo’s George Mika took over and helped his team rally and gain the lead. The Bulls forward converted on a power-play with a blast from the top of the circle to the left of Topeka goalie Ryan Snowden (49 shots), and four minutes later – with the Runners killing off a 5-minute major handed out to Frye – Mike scored from nearly the exact same spot. Five minutes after that Mike finished off the natural hat trick by converting on a 2-on-1 break.
The teams traded goals from that point, but the RoadRunners couldn’t gain the equalizer. Frantti, Nigel Nelson and Marcus Russell all beat Babintsev, but the Bulls scored an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the win.