Runners can’t hold lead, fall 5-4

The first two periods put the Topeka RoadRunners in the driver’s seat Thursday night.

The third period left them without any gas in the tank.

Leading 3-1 after two periods and 4-1 early in the third period, Topeka (11-21-3) squandered their lead and could not recoup in the shootout, falling 5-4 to the Odessa Jackalopes at Landon Arena.

Topeka had the chance to win the game in the fifth round of the shootout, after goaltender Sam Metcalf stopped Jackalopes forward Zach Heintz. Forward Mason Yukovich could not capitalize, however, leaving the door open.

Odessa (20-11-3) then won it in round six, as forward Peyton Frannti ripped a shot past Metcalf. Topeka had a final chance to equalize it, but forward Hugh Quinn was denied by goaltender Alex Camarre.

Camarre stopped 22 of 23 shots on the night in relief of goaltender Brett Epp, who gave up three goals on 11 shots.

“We got away from our game in the third period,” RoadRunners head coach Justin DeMartino said. “When we came out in the third, we didn’t have that energy that helped us in the first two periods.”

Forward Chad Hillebrand notched his fourth goal of the season at 2:27 of the third period, giving Topeka a firm 4-1 advantage.

Odessa cut into the lead with goals at 4:41 and 13:02, respectively, before tying it up at 16:09. Forward Blake Bride scored the Jackalopes’ third and fourth goals of the contest.

“We won two periods tonight, but they outplayed us in the third,” DeMartino said. “We have to realize, myself included, that it takes a full 60 minutes to get it done against a team like Odessa.”

Following an early first period goal by Frannti, forward Dallas Tulik tied it for the Runners with a slick shot from the slot at 18:21 of the frame.

In the second period, Topeka took the lead on a 2-on-1, with forward Zeke Zeier beating Epp. Defenseman Matt Barnes then picked up his fourth goal of the season, a powerplay tally, at 5:35, extending the lead to 3-1.

With two remaining games in the three-game series, Topeka will look to even the series Friday.

“Tomorrow is another day, and we’ve got to come ready to go,” DeMartino said.