The Topeka RoadRunners fell behind late in the second period and despite a furious comeback attempt, fell short dropping a 4-3 loss in regulation on Friday night.
In a brisk first period, the RoadRunners had the early opportunity when Springfield started the game shorthanded due to an infraction assessed during warmups in which a Jr. Blues player shot a puck at the RoadRunners goal drawing a minor penalty. The ‘Runners controlled the majority of the period, but the only tally came when Springfield defenseman Luke Jenkins netted his first goal of the season at 8:31, picking the top corner on the glove side of Cooper Frederick. The Jr. Blues led 1-0 after 1.
In the second period, Topeka tied it up at 8:32 when Kit Sitterley two-barred a shot past Tanner Milliron, set up by Tony Thomas. (A \”two-bar\” is a shot that hits two pipes on the net on the way in, a rare but celebrated occurrence.) As often is the case in sports, and seemingly most noticeably in hockey, a short breakdown can have game changing implications. A turnover and resulting odd-man rush afforded Springfield the go-ahead goal at 17:33 as Mike Schaber punched in a rebound up under the crossbar, then a minute later at 18:33 Kevin O\’Donnell buried a shot from a difficult angle, on the hash marks on the right wing boards to give the Jr. Blues a 3-1 lead after 2. Topeka, par for the course, was outshooting their opponent but not getting the goals.
At the third period opening faceoff, Cory Ramsey answered the bell, squaring off with Mike Schaber in a fairly uneventful tussle that was 60% posturing, 10% fisticuffs and 30% wrestling. The ‘Runners showed their resiliency at 4:01, burying a shorthanded goal that was set up initially by Chris Bond at his own blue line, pushing the puck to Cole Schneider who muscled up the right wing before saucing a perfect pass to Erik Higby. Higby deked left, then right before pulling sharply to his left again before sliding the shot past Milliron to make it a 3-2 game. As the ‘Runners continued to pressure for the game tying goal, a long pass to Ross Anderson sprung him on a short breakaway and his low shot on the blocker side gave Springfield a 4-2 lead with 2:15 to play. Topeka pulled Frederick for the extra attacker and the strategy paid off when Edgars Lipsbergs slid a pass from behind the net to Michael Hill who hammered it home on the doorstep to make it 4-3 with 1:25 to go, Hill\’s 7th goal of the season. Topeka pulled Frederick again once they had established control in the offensive zone again, and despite a couple of successful clears by Springfield, kept possession and had shot opportunities but with a lot of traffic around, they couldn\’t punch one through as time expired and the Jr. Blues hand Topeka just their second regulation defeat in 2 months.
Topeka (16-4-3) and Springfield (11-10-4) meet again Saturday night. Topeka is 3-1-1 vs Springfield this year, and 9-8-2 all time in the Nelson Center.
· Bryce Johnson had his goal streak snapped at 5 games. He has scored 9 points in his last 6 games.
· Cooper Frederick takes just his second regulation loss but still sits at 5-2-1 this season.
· Alec Hagaman is still out of the lineup, but is expected to return next weekend in Texas.
· Justin Kochan did not make the trip, but is expected to return to the lineup when Owatonna visits Topeka Dec.10-12.