Each season, the Topeka RoadRunners are forced to spend an extended amount of time on the road as the multi-purpose facility they call home is contractually obligated to a number of recurring February events. This year, the ice came out following the homestand at the end of January and is finally being reinstalled this week. Over a six week period, the RoadRunners played 8 games, had two weekends off, and have wrapped up the road swing with a 4-4-0 record following the weekend sweep at Amarillo.
With both teams entering the weekend following a week off, and coming off road shutout losses, it figured to be a spirited battle on Friday, and it was exactly that. The ‘Runners held the upper hand, largely dominating the first period, taking the 1-0 lead on Shawn Brennan’s first goal of the season at the 7:07 mark, set up by Andrew Hart and Marshall Bowery. Nicholas Santoro tied it up for the Bulls as his wrister from the right wing in full stride eluded Juho Niku early in the middle frame. The momentum began to swing and suddenly it was the Bulls who were managing sustained offensive zone pressure. The game appeared to headed for overtime in the final minute, but Luka Maver stole the puck away from a Bulls defender and raced in alone, burying a nifty backhander behind Anton Martinsson with only 4.3 seconds remaining in regulation. Topeka won the following faceoff to ice the game and end a four game losing skid. The loss mathematically eliminated Amarillo from the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Tyler Johnson got the call to start the second game for Topeka, and once again the ‘Runners controlled the majority of the period, but the lone goal was a blast from Charlie Singerhouse on an odd man rush and the Bulls were on the board first. A relentless Topeka forecheck led to the ‘Runners tying it up, as Dominic Lutz extracted the puck from the right wing corner, sending a crisp centering feed to Marcus Russell who slid it home at 18:33 and the game was tied after 20 minutes. Amarillo retook the lead in the middle stanza on a Michael Forman goal and the Bulls held a 2-1 advantage at the end of two periods. Topeka would tie it again at 2 aside as Cam Strong ripped a shot home after a nice feed from Luka Maver and Seth Kamrass. The go-ahead for Topeka came off the stick of Quinn Preston, a power play goal from the slot, fed neatly by Dominic Lutz with 5:37 left to play. Later in the period, Topeka took advantage of a lazy Bulls backcheck as Cam Strong cleared the zone and Marshall Bowery sprinted past a flat-footed Bulls defenseman, dishing the puck to Andrew Hart who planted it upstairs for a 4-2 Topeka lead with 2:08 remaining. The Bulls elected to not attempt to pull the goalie for an extra skater, and the ‘Runners cruised to the 4-2 win, completing the weekend sweep. Topeka is now 19-1-1 in their last 21 games against the Bulls.
The RoadRunners (30-20-1) return home for a three game set with the Odessa Jackalopes (21-25-4) on March 18-20. Odessa is in a fierce battle with Corpus Christi for the fourth playoff seed in the division. The Jacks are 4 points the behind Ice Rays but are in control of their own fate. All games are available to watch online at FASTHockey.com.