After splitting Games 1 and 2 in Topeka, the pivotal Game 3 in St. Louis on Friday night was won by the home team, putting the RoadRunners in a must-win situation to save their season on Saturday.
The first period was a scoreless affair, marred by only one penalty which was considered surprising by some considering the feisty tone of the first two games. Though no one scored in the period, St. Louis seemed to have the upper hand early.
That upper hand translated into a 1-0 lead just 1:30 into the second period when Dan Olzsewski slipped out of the left wing corner and slid the puck around Eric Rohrkemper. St. Louis killed off a 5-on-3 Topeka power play before the Bandits pulled ahead 2-0 on a lazy neutral zone tip that caught air and bounced past a RoadRunner defenseman springing Joe Kalisz who came in alone and beat Rohrkemper with a nifty backhander at 8:58. Topeka showed a spark of life when Bob Marx snapped a shot past Tyler Bruggeman just :05 seconds into a power play at 10:42 to cut the Bandit lead in half. The score stood at 2-1 after 2.
St. Louis caught a break early in the third when a wayward pass caromed right to Ryan Stouffer all alone in the slot and he made no mistake, quickly burying the puck upstairs on the blocker side for a 3-1 lead that seemed to let even more air of the \’Runners already leaky tires. By the time Colton Hargrove buried a blast at 15:19 while streaking down the left wing, the outcome had been seemingly apparent. Despite a late power play and pulling the goalie for the extra attacker, Topeka couldn\’t score, and then a late penalty erased the man advantage, and the Bandits won the game by the final score of 4-1.
Topeka has one last chance to extend their season when they face St. Louis on Saturday night. If St. Louis wins, they will go to Wenatchee to represent the South Division. If Topeka wins, Game 5 will be played Monday night at 7:05 pm at the Kansas Expocentre.
Live coverage will be available on ESPN 1490 KTOP, Topeka\’s Sports Leader beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 pm.