Salem nets shootout game-winner, Pilots sweep Jr. Blues

Timely scoring and stout goaltending stole the show again for the Topeka Pilots on Saturday night. 

Tied at one after 65 minutes of hockey, Topeka (11-4-1) looked poised in the late game, entering their third shootout of the season. 

Following seven tense rounds, including four rounds of sudden-death, Pilots defenseman Luc Salem won it for the Pilots, beating goaltender Alex Proctor with a slick wrist shot that whistled into the back of the net. 

Pilots goaltender Guy Blessing was then tasked with stopping Jr. Blues forward Ginovanni Carabelli, which he calmly did, making a right pad save on Carabelli to earn the Pilots a hard-fought 2-1 victory at the Nelson Center. 

With the victory, the Pilots earned their first series sweep of the season. They currently remain in first place in the NAHL South Division. 

Pilots forward Quinn Green also picked up a tally in the shootout, scoring the first round to open the scoring. Jr. Blues forward Aaron Shaw had the lone Springfield goal in the shootout. 

Reminiscent of Friday’s game, Topeka opened the scoring in the first period Saturday, with forward Kaiden Scott netting his second goal of the year at 9:15, giving the Pilots a 1-0 lead. 

Scott’s goal came on the powerplay, as he looked to dish the puck out in front of the net to Green, but it instead deflected off of Proctor’s pads and snuck into the back of the net. 

After holding an 8-4 shots on goal advantage in the first, Topeka saw Springfield up the ante in the second period, with the Jr. Blues outshooting the Pilots 16-5 in the middle frame. 

This eventually culminated in the equalizing powerplay goal at 9:19, with forward Trent DeNuccio beating Blessing on a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle. 

Neither team would score again in the remaining time of regulation or overtime, setting up the dramatic shootout finish. 

The Pilots will continue their road swing on Oct. 25-26, heading to the American Bank Center to face the Corpus Christi IceRays. Corpus Christi was swept this weekend by the Shreveport Mudbugs. 

This will be the second series of the year between the two teams, with the Pilots and IceRays splitting their first series at the Stormont Vail Events Center.