The Lone Star Brahmas came out flying early on Friday night and only a few unfortunate bounces kept them from building a 3 – 0 first period lead. They controlled play through the first 10 plus minutes, but could not maintain the pressure and allowed momentum to swing back to Topeka resulting in a 5 – 1 loss in game one of the NAHL South Division Finals. They would have to come out with the same intensity and maintain it for a full 60 minutes in front of TJ Black getting his first start of the post season.
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The Brahmas got the bounce early that they did not get last night. Lone Star sent the puck deep behind the Topeka cage, when the Roadrunners’ defense tried to move the puck out front it went off of Matej Tomek right to Cody Wickline and he ripped it into the twine at 5:37 of the first. With 9:06 to go in the period, Sean Giles poked the puck off Jasen Fernsler’s stick in the Brahmas’ defensive zone and Liam Stirtzinger bumped it back to Giles then headed up ice for the return pass. Stirtzinger played it through the legs of Ryan O’Connor recollected the puck and spun a backhander on net from the far faceoff dot past Tomek.
Early in the second Caleb Thompson, playing with an edge since having his two front teeth chipped with an uncalled high stick, cancelled out O’Connor with a huge check at the far point setting the tone for the middle frame. A hustle play from Pat Egan and Chad Guderian set Roman Uchyn up just off the far post for a blast off of Tomek’s chest. Uchyn grabbed his own rebound and took it behind the net looking to make a centering pass. However, Tomek left his post and Uchyn wrapped it around the near post into the open net. The goal at 9:21 gave the Brahmas a three goal lead. Just 41 seconds later, Thompson grabbed a loose puck at the far halfwall and fluttered one on goal that was redirected by Wickline. The goal chased Tomek from net, replaced by Drew Vogler. With 8:11 left, JB Baker drove AJ Vanderbeck headfirst into the boards. Baker got the gate for the dangerous hit which left Vanderbeck prone on the ice for over two minutes.
The Roadrunners killed off the double minor and gained some momentum from the kills. Soon after, Giles was hit with a roughing minor. With just 2:35 to go, the Brahmas got to chasing and Topeka worked the puck to Tyler Irvine in the high slot and he hit Mike Gornall anchored at the near post for a redirect behind Black. Gornall scored a second goal 25 seconds later sending the puck through a mass of humanity in front of Black. Will Scherer and Shawn Brennan were credited with the assists on the play.
Gornall completed the hat trick at the 9:28 mark of the third on a feed from Irvine pulling Topeka to within a single goal. Following an icing call to the Brahmas with just 2:01 to go in regulation, Head Coach Dan Wildfong called a time out to get fresh legs on the ice. Topeka took the opportunity to pull Vogler for the extra attacker. At the 19:40 mark off a draw to Black’s right the puck bounced around in front to Carlos Fornaris who put a backhander past Black’s left pad. Gornall picked up his fourth point on the night while Sam Rennaker was credited with the secondary assist.
With just two minutes gone in Overtime, Fernsler had a point blank opportunity to seal the comeback, but Black made a huge save to keep it tied. Gornall who was in position to be the Roadrunner’s hero on the night became the goat when his clearing attempt was picked off by Storm Wahlrab coming off the bench. Wahlrab toe dragged around Gornall splitting the Topeka Captain and Scherer and put a back hander over Vogler’s right pad for the game winner at 3:53.
Lone Star won the shots on goal battle 22 – 21, but were once again unable to convert on the power play going 0 – 3 while the Roadrunners were 1 – 4.
The win evens the series at one game apiece as the teams head to Topeka next week for games 3 and 4. Game five if necessary will be back at NYTEX Sports Centre.