As the Topeka RoadRunners strive to gel as a team, they are hoping this weekend is a sign of things to come.
Trailing 2-1 entering the third period, Topeka (13-24-3) struck for five third period goals, propelling them to a 6-3 victory over the Odessa Jackalopes at Landon Arena.
With the win, Topeka swept the weekend series against Odessa (13-18-4.)
“It’s all about unselfishness and attention to detail right now,” RoadRunners defenseman Brenden Rons said. “I was happy to see us shut them down when we needed to tonight.”
Topeka has now come back from two-goal deficits two nights in a row.
“We really brought it in the third period,” RoadRunners head coach Josh Kamrass said. “That’s the best team play we’ve had all season.”
Down 2-1, forward Max Harper got his third goal of the weekend and 16th of the season at 3:30 of the third period, tying the game at two, as Harper knocked home a rebound off a Marshall Bowery shot.
Forward Brendan Doyle gave Topeka its first lead of the night at 6:08 of the third period, flipping a loose puck past goaltender Joe Flakne.
Unfortunately for Topeka, a 5-on-3 Odessa powerplay brought an equalizing goal for the Jackalopes, with forward Zach Zech beating goaltender Ryan Snowden blocker side low at 7:34.
Harper was in the right place at the right time for a powerplay tally at 14:19, with a sweet dish from Bowery setting him up for a one-timer in the slot, making it 4-3 Topeka.
Less than a minute later, after blocking a shot at the point, forward Nick Granowicz raced in on a 2-on-0 break with forward John DeRoche. Granowicz made a soft pass across to Granowicz, who tapped it home, extending the Runners’ lead to 5-3.
Forward Phil Erickson finished off Odessa at 19:24, with an emptynet tally sealing the victory. Forward Joey Moore also picked up an assist on the play.
Joey’s father Steve Moore played for the Topeka Scarecrows of the Central Hockey League in the 1999-2000 season.
“That’s the great thing about our sport,” Kamrass said. “Being able to play in Topeka, when his dad also played here, is something special. I know their family will cherish that.”
The Jackalopes hopped on top early Saturday, with a screened shot from forward Ludwig Stenlund beating Snowden at 4:34 of the first period. Forward Zach Zech notched his 19th assist of the season on the play.
Behind the play, forward Nigel Nelson got the Topeka fans going at the 12:03 mark, engaging in fisticuffs with Odessa forward Riley Bechard. Nelson landed a few solid punches before linesmen intervened.
Snowden came up huge late in the first, stopping a breakaway attempt that kept the game at 1-0 going into first intermission.
The Jackalopes held the upper hand in the first period in shots on goal, with a 14-9 advantage.
Odessa doubled its lead at 1:40 of the second period, with forward Zach Heintz sniping a shot past Snowden from the left circle.
Flakne kept Topeka scoreless through much of the second frame, but Bowery got his team back in it at 16:42. Bowery’s powerplay goal came from a quick wrist shot beating Flakne, cutting the Jackalopes’ lead in half.
The score went unchanged into the second intermission. Topeka had the advantage in second period shots, with a 14-11 margin.
Topeka will now turn its attention to the Lone Star Brahmas, who lead the NAHL South. The two teams will tangle Saturday and Sunday at Landon Arena.