Runners strike for five in the first, win 6-1

After the season opener on Friday night, the Topeka RoadRunners talked about getting a faster start Saturday night.

Five goals in the first period seemed to do the trick.

After falling 4-1 Friday, Topeka (1-1-0) rebounded Saturday, using a five-goal first period to take control of the game, winning 6-1 at Landon Arena over the Corpus Christi IceRays.

Returning forward Nick Granowicz had two goals on the night, including the eventual game-winning goal at the 13:24 mark of the first.

Granowicz said he was happy with how his team came out firing on Saturday, peppering Corpus Christi goaltenders Chad Veltri and Camden Burggrabe with 21 shots in the opening frame.

“We played to our identity tonight,” Granowicz said. “We shot the puck on net and got pucks deep. That was a key component to winning this game.”

In the first, it didn’t take long for the Runners to get on the board. Defenseman Cam Kuhl sailed a shot from the blue line that found its way past Veltri just 2:17 into the game, making it 1-0.

Corpus Christi evened it up at one apiece with a tally at 9:47, as forward Kaelan Taylor beat goaltender Sam Metcalf. Metcalf was solid on the night, stopping 27 of 28 shots on goal.

It was all RoadRunners from there.

Granowicz gave the Runners the lead back after a great pass from behind the net by forward Will Schlagenhauf set him up in the slot. He beat Veltri at 13:24 for a 2-1 lead.

“We want to make sure we have the mentality it’s the last minute of the game the whole night,” RoadRunners assistant head coach Justin DeMartino said. “Every time we can get the puck on net, we want to do that and really pressure the opposition.”

Forward Connor Griebenow got into the action with his first goal of the season at 14:11, stuffing home a loose puck in the crease to give the Runners a two-goal advantage.

Not done yet, Granowicz tallied his second of the night, grabbing a loose puck and firing it low blocker side to beat Veltri, making it 4-1 with a powerplay goal at 16:28. This would chase Veltri for the remainder of the first period, with Burggrabe taking over.

Defenseman Devon Fields cut in from the point and ripped a shot high at 19:12 to finish off the first period scoring, making 5-1 at the end of frame.

The final tally came at the 20:00 mark of the second period, just narrowly beating the buzzer, as defenseman Sam Martel beat Veltri from the left faceoff circle, making it 6-1.

The Runners will now turn their focus to the NAHL Showcase, which runs Sept. 20-23. Topeka opens the showcase against the Johnstown Tomahawks, and will also face the New Jersey Titans, Minot Minotauros and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.

The showcase is an opportunity for players to get exposure to scouts and college recruits.

“This showcase is a very indicative of the season, it’s a grind,” DeMartino said. “We have to have the mindset to know we are going to work every day, and if we do that, we’ll be successful.”