When January drew to a close, the Topeka RoadRunners were looking at spending a solid month on the road. Practices, games, the whole ball of wax. With the first seven games all resulting in wins, Topeka was excited to play the final game of the road swing and head home. The Owatonna Express, losers of three straight had other plans.
The first period saw the RoadRunners be their own worst enemy. Unable to stay out of the penalty box, they were forced to kill off three penalties in the first half of the period. After killing the first two successfully, the third was nearly over when a failed clearing attempt was held in at the left point by Jacob Sloat who fired a shot that Jake Youso redirected at 10:59 for a 1-0 Express lead. Just about 2 minutes later, Youso again had the puck this time on the right wing, and after spinning away from pressure threw the puck at the net with traffic in front and Chris Darnell got a stick on it to tip it past Eric Rohrkemper for a 2-0 lead at the 13:00 mark. Owatonna dominated the first period, outshooting Topeka 10-3.
In the second frame, the ‘Runners kept out of the penalty box and got back in the game. Alec Hagaman tipped in a Bob Marx power play shot from the blue line at 8:17 to draw within 1. Owatonna retook a two goal lead when Cory Thorson knocked in a rebound that pinballed through a maze of skates for a 3-1 advantage at 14:02. Topeka struck again on the power play at 18:53 with Justin Kovacs punching in a crossing pass from Alec Hagaman, set up by Michael Hill. At the end of two, it was a 3-2 lead for Owatonna, with Topeka being held to just 7 shots through 2 periods.
Topeka woke up in the third period, outshooting the Express 14-6, and tying the game at 3-3 just :45 seconds in on Justin Kovacs\’ second goal of the night. The ‘Runners stayed out of the box again, but a flukish play led to Owatonna retaking the lead at 4-3. A fluttering rainbow shot rolled out of the outstretched glove of Eric Rohrkemper and on a third whack at the loose puck, Zach Vierling lifted it over the blocker, the goal coming at 4:01. Topeka continued to pressure, and pulling the goalie late were able to tie the game on Justin Kovacs third of the game at 19:10, his first hat trick with the ‘Runners.
A scoreless overtime gave way to shootout. After 4 rounds of scoreless attempts, Edgars Lipsbergs put one in upstairs on the backhand, but Jacob Sloat answered with a low blocker snapshot to tie it up. Two rounds later, Nick Widing wristed a shot over the glove side for the game winner, as Owatonna posts a 5-4 win, simultaneously ending their three game losing streak, Topeka’s nine game overall winning streak as well as their 10 game road winning streak.
Topeka (38-7-5) heads home at long last to face the St. Louis Bandits (37-9-3). Topeka is 4 points ahead of St. Louis though the Bandits have one game in hand.