Twelve seconds away from defeat, the Topeka RoadRunners found a way Sunday night.
Following a dramatic tying goal from forward Nick Schultze with just 12 seconds to go in the third period, forward Chad Hillebrand finished off the sweep for Topeka in overtime.
Hillebrand raced down the ice, beat the Springfield defense and ripped a game-winning shot past goaltender Jurja Ovecka, as the RoadRunners defeated the Jr. Blues 2-1 at Landon Arena.
“I saw some open ice there, and I took it to the net,” Hillebrand said. “I closed my eyes and just hoped it’d go in, and it did. I saw a little opening on the top-left corner and threw at the net.”
Following the goal by Schultze, the momentum swing was apparent for Topeka, who had been stonewalled by Ovecka up to that point.
Topeka outshot Springfield 6-0 in overtime.
“Getting that tying goal, we were ecstatic,” Hillebrand said. “We knew we had a real chance at that point.”
While it wasn’t the best effort he’s seen all year, RoadRunners head coach Justin DeMartino said his team had the will on Sunday and kept fighting.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we kept at it and got it done,” DeMartino said. “Things weren’t going our way for a bit there tonight, but we didn’t give up, and I’m proud of the guys for that.”
Through two periods Sunday, Springfield had a 1-0 lead after a powerplay goal in the second period from forward Brandon Puricelli.
Prior to the tying goal, Topeka had several good looks in the third period, but they could not find the equalizing marker.
Goaltender Emil Gransoe also came up with several big stops for Topeka in the final frame, stopping 10 shots in the third period and 30 out of 31 shots on goal in the contest.
This set up Schultze’s tally at 19:48 of the third period. Defenseman Matt Barnes’ shot rebounded right to Schultze, who poked it past Ovecka, sending he and his teammates into a frenzy
Topeka now turns its attention to the Lone Star Brahmas, who will head to Landon Arena Jan. 29-30 for a two-game series.