SOUTH DIVISION FINALS – GAME 1 RECAP
The Topeka RoadRunners have taken a 1-0 series lead over the Amarillo Bulls after posting a 3-2 win on Friday night in Cal Farley Coliseum in Amarillo, TX.
For the third time in four seasons, the South Division Finals features the Amarillo Bulls and Topeka RoadRunners. Certainly no strangers, the clubs met 12 times in the regular season, with Amarillo claiming each of the first 5 games and Topeka rattling off the final 7 in a row. Playoffs, however, arrive with a clean slate. Each team entered the series having dispatched their first round opponent in three straight games, and confidence was high on both sides.
Topeka managed what every road team aims for, and that's an early goal. It was just 1:13 into the first when Tyler Poulsen put the 'Runners on the board, set up nicely by Yu Hikosaka and Jake Kamrass. The Bulls answered to tie the game on a Roman Ammirato goal when his crisp wrister beat PJ Bridges low on the blocker side after an end-to-end rush. The Bulls grabbed a 2-1 lead at 13:05 of the first period when off the Topeka defensive zone draw, Tyler Gernhofer flung a puck at the net that struck Bridges in the face mask and bounced off Tomas Nechala's back to the crease where Ammirato easily tapped it in for his second goal of the game. Topeka stole the momentum back when Sam Rennaker fired home a Willie Brown pass with just 13.2 seconds left in the opening period, which concluded with the game tied at 2-2.
It's an old hockey adage that says, "Put the puck on net, and good things happen". Such was the case in the second period when Jasen Fernsler fired a shot at the net from the right circle that deflected off the body of Mike Gornall and in behind Bulls goalie Paul Berrafato for a 3-2 Topeka lead at the 6:18 mark. From that point, goaltending and defense took center stage. Berrafato made a couple of terrific saves, including a stop on a Tyler Poulsen breakaway, while Topeka goalie PJ Bridges was equally sharp, including a point blank stop of Eric Purcell's shot following a bad defensive zone turnover.
Outshot 24-15 through two periods, Amarillo cranked up the pressure in the third, and pulled Berrafato for the extra skater in the final 1:04, a strategy that had worked for the Bulls more than once against Topeka in the regular season. However, this time the RoadRunners would hold fast and secure the 3-2 win, and with it, a 1 game to none series lead. Bridges stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced, posting his 4th consecutive postseason win.
Game 2 of the best-of-five South Division Final series is Saturday, April 19 in Amarillo. The series shifts to Topeka for Game 3 on Thursday, April 24. If necessary, Game 4 would be Friday April 25 in Topeka and Game 5 would be back in Amarillo on Monday April 28. Fans can hear every game live with play-by-play provided by Arch Ecker on SportsRadio 1490 KTOP, or watch pay-per-view video online at FASTHockey.com. Game time for Saturday's Game 2 is 7:05 pm CDT, with the pregame show beginning at 6:45 pm. Fans locally in Topeka are invited to the teams official away game watch party at the Lazy Toad but are advised to arrive early as seats are limited.