The NAHL South Division Finals got underway Friday night with the Topeka Roadrunners in town to take on the Lone Star Brahmas at the NYTEX Sports Centre. The Roadrunners advanced to the finals with a 3 – 1 win over the third seed Wichita Falls Wildcats while the Lone Star Brahmas swept number five Wenatchee Wild in three straight.
Lone Star got on the board with the first shot on goal at 4:14 of the first. Sebastian Vidmar made a big play along the end boards to push the puck back up the far wall to Johan Steen at the near point. Steen found Oskar Andren at the near hash for a blast off of Matej Tomek who allowed the puck to sneek through the body. With the puck laying in the paint behind the Topeka netminder, Vidmar managed to get the stick through and slide it across the line. With the goal the Brahmas picked up momentum and controlled play through the first half of the opening 20 minutes not allowing a Topeka shot on goal until 8:54 to go in the period.
Sean Giles was whistled for a hook on the play giving Topeka the first man advantage of the night. Being a man down did little to slow the Brahmas as they allowed the Roadrunners only a single shot on goal during the power play. With just over two minutes to play in the frame, Topeka’s Tyler Irvine picked up a long rebound and headed toward Jake Kupsky. Storm Wahlrab got on his horse and chased down the speedy forward sweeping the puck away just before he could get a shot off.
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A big error by Kupsky led to an early Topeka tally in the second. The Brahmas netminder came out to play the puck awkwardly behind his cage. In the process he lost his stick and had trouble getting back into the crease. He was fortunate that the initial centering pass missed its intended target, but Daniel Brickley corralled the loose puck at the near point and fed it to Mike Gornall just off the far post for the gift goal just 27 seconds in. The Roadrunners took their first lead with 11:24 to go in the period when Ryan O’Connor gave the puck to Carlos Fornaris at the far point, but he fanned on the slapshot resulting in a bouncing puck heading on goal. Irvine came swooping in to poke the bouncing puck over Kupsky’s left pad. Time of the goal was 8:36. Moments later Yu Hikosaka and Beau Dommer broke through on a 2 on 1 rush with only Caleb Thompson between them and the Brahmas’ goaltender. Thompson played it perfectly forcing Dommer wide and poking the puck off his stick.
The third opened with a turnover in the Brahmas’ zone that led to Dominic Lutz putting it past Kupsky blocker side for an unassisted goal at 2:06.
With just under seven minutes gone in the third and a puck battle in the corner to Kupsky’s left, Thompson took a high stick in the mouth from Fornaris right in front of referee Tim Ferrel even as Thompson was prone on the ice for several seconds as play continued. With three minutes to go Lone Star called Kupsky to the bench for the extra attacker, but Topeka controlled the puck in the neutral zone and Jasen Fernsler put it in the empty net at 17:08. Seconds later, Steen was whistled for a minor penalty giving Topeka another power play opportunity which Gornall converted on a rebound in front at 17:54.
Shots on goal were 22 – 22. Topeka was 2 – 4 on the power play while the Brahmas were 0 – 2. Lone Star will have to come out strong and maintain the pressure tomorrow.