The Topeka RoadRunners entered the final week of the regular season on the precipice of reaching their season long goal of a division title. Standing in the way: the Springfield Jr. Blues. Topeka moved a step closer by defeating the Jr. Blues 7-4 on Wednesday night, led by a four goal effort from Michael Hill.
Topeka came out with a visible energy, with every player seeming to skate faster, hit harder, and pass more crisply. Outshooting the Jr. Blues 16-9, the game was still scoreless until Topeka got on the board with a power play goal at 17:57, with Alec Hagaman threading the needle to Justin Kovacs who quickly snapped it back across to Michael Hill who buried it for the 1-0 lead that stood after one period of play.
In the second period, Springfield turned up the heat with three unanswered goals. Kevin O\’Donnell jammed home a pass from behind the goal line at 1:38, Matt Kinman scored at 5:59 from the left point through traffic, and Jared Rickord punched home a rebound on the blocker side of Evan Karambelas at 10:56 and suddenly the \’Runners were trailing 3-1. Topeka got up from the mat to retake the lead before the period ended. Michael Hill netted his second of the evening at 12:44, and Nickolas Gatt tied it up on his second goal of the season on the power play at 13:55. The comeback was completed when Michael Hill scored his third of the game and 30th of the season at 17:37. For Hill, it was his second hat trick in as many games, having pulled the trick on Saturday night in Wichita Falls. Topeka was outshot in the second period, but still held a one goal lead.
In the third period, Topeka got some insurance when Edgars Lipsbergs rifled a shot over the blocker of Tanner Milliron for a 5-3 lead at 8:03. That goal loomed large when Jared Rickord scored again on the power play to draw within a goal. The RoadRunners got a lift from Cole Schneider who buried his 24th goal in just 28 games for a 6-4 lead at 18:45. Springfield called a timeout with 1:10 left and pulled Milliron in an attempt to tie the game, but team points leader Erik Higby dished the puck to Michael Hill who saucered the puck 100 feet into the empty net for his fourth of the night, securing the 7-4 win for the RoadRunners in front of 1,855 roaring fans.
Topeka (43-9-5) now has a Magic Number of 1. A win or overtime point on Thursday night against Springfield (21-28-8) will clinch the NAHL South Division title and home ice throughout the playoffs. All 7,777 seats in Landon Arena have been sold for Thursdays regular season finale, the first sellout in franchise history. NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld is scheduled to attend. Faceoff is 7:05 pm.
- The RoadRunners 43rd win is the most wins in a season in franchise history.
- Michael Hill\’s back-to-back hat tricks is the first time that feat has been accomplished in team history. His four goal night has only been equaled 4 other times in team history, with Andrew Johnson holding the record for 5 goals in a game in December 2004. Also hitting the 4 goal in a game mark were Tibor Kutalek, Drew Akins, and Eriah Hayes.
- Topeka\’s record against Springfield is now 8-2-1 this season, and 17-4-2 all time at home.