With a 4-0 win on Saturday night in Albert Lea, MN, the RoadRunners have now won eight straight for the second time this season, and only the second time in franchise history.
After a hard fought battle on Friday night that saw Topeka surrender two first period goals to go down 2-0 forcing a come-from-behind win, the \’Runners were focused on getting off to a better start Saturday. Justin Kovacs redirected a Michael Hill shot at 17:58 that crept in past Thunder netminder Joe Rogers for a 1-0 Topeka lead that was the only score of the first period. In the second period the vaunted RoadRunner powerplay was stifled, with the Thunder killing off 3 penalties including 1:30 of a 5-on-3. The \’Runners outshot Albert Lea 10-3 in the period, but the 1-0 lead still stood after 40 minutes.
The third period was a penalty free affair, and Topeka\’s precarious one goal lead grew to 2 when Tony Thomas swatted in a rebound of an Edgars Lipsbergs shot at 10:46. The \’Runners scored again at 15:18 when Kurtis Anton fed a crossing pass to Patrick Kirtland who muscled his way down the left wing fending off former RoadRunner Harry Quast before snapping a pass to Nate Milam in the slot for a onetimer and a 3-0 lead. Just over a minute later, Topeka struck again as Justin Kovacs potted his second of the night and eighth of the year, and \’Runner goalie Eric Rohrkemper held on for the 4-0 win, his second shutout this season.
Topeka (37-7-4) will head right back up in the southern part of Minnesota for a two game set with the Owatonna Express (27-18-4). Topeka swept Owatonna in the three games played in Topeka in December.
Forward Michael Hill had his consecutive goal streak snapped at 6 games, tying teammate Erik Higby for the longest such streak this season.
With Friday\’s win, Topeka mathematically clinched home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. The magic number to clinch the South Division is now 19. (Subtract one point for each RoadRunner point earned in the standings, and a point for any point St. Louis fails to earn. For example, on Saturday night Topeka won (-2), and St. Louis lost in a shootout but still earned one point (-1). So on Saturday, the magic number dropped from 22 to 19.