After surrendering a 4-0 lead the prior evening, the 1,537 fans in Landon Arena were understandably on the edge of their seats when the Wichita Falls Wildcats closed a 4-1 gap to 4-3 with 3:13 to play Saturday night, but this time Topeka closed the door on the win, a 4-3 victory that keeps them 4 points ahead of St. Louis in the NAHL South.
The Wildcat playbook called for a quick start to put the ‘Runners on their heels and take the crowd out of the game. Tyler Lundey delivered, burying a backhander just :54 seconds into the game for a 1-0 lead. It took Topeka until the 8:23 mark of the first to tie it up as a Bob Marx shot caromed in off the leg of Kit Sitterley, giving the forward his first goal as a RoadRunner. Defenseman Cory Ramsey gave Topeka a 2-1 lead as he pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone and led a 3-on-3 break that he finished himself with a crisp shot beating Phillip Graveline on his blocker side at 14:26. :30 seconds later, Topeka was up 3-1 as Bryce Johnson redirected a perfect setup from Nickolas Gatt that went right through the leg pads of the Wichita Falls netminder. Topeka led 3-1 after 1, outshooting the ‘Cats 18-7.
Erik Higby added some needed insurance at 1:55 with a bomb on the right wing on a 2-on-2 that sent Graveline to the bench, to be relieved by Erick Cinotti. The remainder of the second period was dominated by Topeka, as they outshot the ‘Cats 11-3, and largely dominated 2 of the 3 scraps that occurred in a :15 second game clock span midway through the frame. With shots on goal reading 29-10 Topeka after 2 periods, it seemed clear the ‘Runners were in control.
In the third, a series of penalties kept the ‘Runners on their heels, and at 15:59, the third Wildcat powerplay of the period yielded a goal by Adam Kuhn that made it a 4-2 game, and the nail-biting began when Bryan Kozlowski batted a puck in out of mid-air at 16:47 to make it a 4-3 game. The ‘Runners held on to seal the 4-3 win, but the table is clearly set for some spirited battles when the Wildcats return to Landon Arena for a three game set at New Years.
Topeka (14-3-3) awaits the arrival of Springfield (10-8-4) next weekend. Topeka is 1-0-1 vs Springfield this season.