A formidable foe and an off night gave the Topeka Pilots plenty of troubles on Friday at Landon Arena.
Struggling to gain momentum, create opportunities and take control in the defensive zone, Topeka (8-6-0) surrendered four second period tallies, on the way to falling 5-1 in game one of two with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
Despite the Pilots playing solid hockey coming in to Friday’s contest, Fairbanks (8-6-1) jumped all over Topeka in the first period and kept the pressure up for the second and third periods.
The Ice Dogs outshot the Pilots 17-2 in the opening frame on their way to holding a 41-13 shots advantage for the game.
“We have a lot to improve on after tonight,” Pilots head coach Simon Watson said. “Our puck battles and communication and positional play were not where we wanted to be. It’s on us as a coaching staff to fix the positional issues. We’ll fix some things and get back at it.”
In the first period, forward Jonathan Sorenson got the scoring started with a tally at 3:09. Sorenson had two goals on the evening.
Despite a rough first period, goaltender Emil Gransoe weathered the storm the remainder of the frame, stopping 16 shots.
Early in the second period, at 1:34, defenseman Dylan Abbott tallied his first goal of the season, doubling the Ice Dogs’ lead to 2-0.
The last 10 minutes of the second period were difficult for the Pilots, with three tallies at 10:50, 17:41 and 19:16 making it 5-0 at second intermission.
Gransoe was pulled after two periods in favor of goaltender Sam Metcalf, who stopped the 10 shots he faced in the third period.
Forward Dallas Tulik continued his hot start to the season with the Pilots’ lone tally at 10:18 of the third period.
Tulik sniped a shot off the crossbar and in, beating goaltender Nate Reid to make it 5-1. Tulik’s goal was his 10thof the season.
Game two of the series will be at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night at Landon Arena, with the Pilots looking to earn a series split and improve on Friday’s result.
“We’ll regroup and get back at it (Saturday),” Watson said. “We won’t hang our head. We’ll wake up Saturday morning and be ready to work.”