The Topeka RoadRunners learned in November that the Wichita Falls Wildcats are capable of overcoming late game deficits to steal a win. History nearly repeated itself Saturday night, but this time it was Topeka with the overtime victory, a 5-4 decision at the Kay Yeager Coliseum in northern Texas.
The RoadRunners jumped on the scoreboard quickly, with Erik Higby lighting the lamp just :42 seconds in, assisted by Justin Kovacs and Cory Ramsey. Wichita Falls finally got a puck past Evan Karambelas :60 seconds later, a Ryan Frost backhander that skeetered through the pads to tie the game at 1-1. The \’Cats had been held scoreless by Karambelas for 134:53, dating back to November. The \’Runners retook the lead when Tony Thomas battled hard for the puck in the right wing corner, dishing a pass to Alec Hagaman who netted a backhander at 11:30, and Topeka led 2-1 after 1.
In the second period, Michael Hill hammered home a bomb of a shot, set up by a cross-ice pass from Nate Milam to Cory Ramsey who snapped it back across to Hill for the score at 6:29. Topeka padded their lead on a Bryce Johnson unassisted tally at 15:24, and the \’Runners led 4-1 after 2. Trailing by three, the \’Cats had Topeka right where they wanted them.
Wichita Falls started crawling back into the game, slowly but methodically. When JT Osborn scored a 5-on-3 power play goal at 8:24, it wasn\’t cause for alarm. When Brian Sheehan scored on a 4-on-3 power play (into a net that was clearly off the pegs unbeknownst to the referee), suddenly a hint of deja vu was perceptible. But when a RoadRunner turnover sprung Tyler Lundey on a shorthanded breakaway that he buried with a low blocker side wrister, the comeback was complete and the game tied 4-4 with 3:21 left to play in regulation. Evan Karambelas stopped 22 of 26 shots he\’d faced, but among those saves were three breakaway chances and an Adam Kuhn penalty shot. He would not face an official shot on goal in overtime.
In an overtime period that saw some nasty stuff go unpenalized, it appeared the officials were not interested in calling anything in a closely contested game. That changed when Topeka was surprisngly awarded a power play in the extra session, but after going 4/6 on the power play Friday, Topeka was snuffed on all 9 power plays on Saturday, including the one in overtime. As Wichita Falls returned to full strength with :25 remaining, they managed to control the puck in the \’Runners zone until a clear by Bryce Johnson was picked up by a racing Edgars Lipsbergs. He had two Wildcat defenders draped over him as he barreled toward the Wildcat netminder PJ Musico (who relieved Kelly Andrew after two periods). Lipsbergs snapped home the game winner low on the glove side with approximately :01 second left in overtime, thereby sealing the 5-4 win, the \’Runners 4th win in a row.
Topeka (33-7-4) heads to Springfield, IL next weekend for a pair of games. The Jr. Blues (17-21-5) split a pair of road games in St. Louis this weekend, helping Topeka extend their lead to 5 points but with the Bandits still having 4 games \”in hand\”. Topeka is 5-2-1 vs the Jr. Blues this season, and 2-1-1 at the Nelson Center.