In his last game in a Topeka RoadRunners uniform before heading off to Air Force Academy, Max Harper was the hero Sunday.
Harper made a great individual effort, skating past two Mudbugs players, flying into the zone, to make it 2-1 late at 16:45 of the third. Harper was tripped up on the play, and scored his 22nd goal of the season from his knees, beating Lubbesmeyer on a backhanded shot.
“When I picked the puck up, I saw he was flat-footed, so I knew I might have a chance to get around him,” Harper said. “I went forehand, then backhand, and tucked it past his skate.”
Topeka then played stout defense in front of goaltender Emil Gransoe late, preserving the 2-1 victory for a three-game sweep of Shreveport.
“Emil did a great job tonight,” RoadRunners coach Josh Kamrass said. “He comes to compete in practice each and every day, and I think all of the guys tonight wanted to win that one for him.”
With the win, Topeka heads into the offseason with a bit of momentum, never giving up late in the year after being disqualified from the playoffs.
““In that locker room, there’s a ton of character,” Kamrass said. “We recruit that drive and we always will. That’s what makes me so proud of this group. They didn’t quit.”
Forward Will Schlagenhauf had the first quality scoring chance of the first period, stealing a pass deep in the Shreveport zone and skating in alone.
Goaltender Dylan Lubbesmeyer made an excellent right pad save on the play, keeping the game locked at zero.
Gransoe was equally solid at the other end in the first period, playing in only his third game of the season.
Late in the first period, at the 18:21 mark, there was a short review on a close play near the Runners net. After review by referee JR Strager, the call on the ice was no goal.
With a 3-on-1 break, Shreveport opened the scoring at 2:06, as forward Jordan Fader ripped a shot stick side high on Gransoe from the right faceoff circle.
The Mudbugs offensive pressure dictated the second period play, with a commanding shot on goal advantage of 17-5.
Topeka kept it close, only relinquishing the lone tally in the second.
This determination paid off late in the frame, with forward Austin McCarthy picking up his first Runners goal at 17:11, evening it up at one apiece.
Gransoe and Lubbesmeyer were on their game in the third, with a slew of great chances turned aside.
Late in the third, a powerplay for Topeka made for an interesting couple of minutes, with the game tied at one. The Runners came up empty on the man advantage, however, setting up Harper’s goal late.
Topeka now heads into the offseason, hoping to bring back some familiar faces as they look to next year.
“We do have a lot of young players in our organization, and they had quite the development and growth this year,” Kamrass said. “If we do get all of our guys back, I think it’ll be a great start for us next season.”