Saturday, 11.19.2016 / 10:09 pm CT
By Alex von Keudell / Photo: Tracey Koby
In an up-and-down series full of unforeseen twists and momentum changes, the Wildcats ousted the Topeka RoadRunners in overtime by a 6-5 final on Saturday night to win the series two games to one.
The first three minutes of the game were spent with Topeka failing to skate past the center ice line. With his family attending the game from New Jersey, Jonathan Bendorf opened the scoring after a long and persistent shift in the RoadRunner zone. With a new pair of linemates, Bendorf took the puck on the edge of the right circle and spun and flung a shot past Emil Gransøe to give the Cats a 1-0 lead. A huge shift in momentum followed, as Topeka scored three unanswered goals and drew several penalties, forcing the Cats to a long 5-on-3 penalty kill.
Wichita Falls killed off the long disadvantage with aplomb. Steven Tillie scored his third goal in just two games after Ricky Carballo fed him a cross-crease pass on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush. Once all the penalties had been killed, Roman Kinal spotted C.J. Walker lurking behind the Topeka skaters, who were scrambling near their bench trying to organize with all the line changes being done after the power plays. Walker had a wide open breakaway and deked out Gransøe to tie the game and score his first Wildcats goal.
The second period yielded very few stoppages and whistles. Jared Dempsey stopped all ten Topeka shots he faced, and the Cats would score two quick goals near the end of the middle frame to into the intermission with a lead. Ilya Skvortsov scored his first goal of the series out of a goal-mouth scramble, and Walker set up Blake Ripley at the edge of the right circle. Ripley sniped a shot under the crossbar to beat Gransøe with his second goal in as many nights and gave the Cats a 5-3 edge.
Topeka crept its way back into the game in the final 20 minutes. Just 43 seconds into period three, the Runners got just what the doctor ordered. After going back onto the power play, John DeRoche was fed a nice cross-crease pass by Max Harper and was able to tuck it over Dempsey’s pad to draw to within a goal. Then at 9:20, Matt Barnes ripped home a heavy slap shot from the left circle to level the score 5-5. In a three-game stretch which had seen so many lead changes and shifts in momentum, overtime would decide the series winner.
After a 4-on-3 Wildcats power play was killed off and the majority of the sudden death frame was spent on the 4-on-4, it appeared as though a shootout was on the horizon. 4:13 into overtime, Carballo drove hard to the net and jammed the puck through Gransøe’s five-hole to give the Wildcats the series victory. Carballo’s exuberant celebration after the goal lead to mayhem unfolding near the Topeka bench.
Dempsey was given his third victory as a Wildcat, saving 21 of 26. Gransøe was handed a defeat despite making 44 stops of a possible 50 in his RoadRunners debut. The Wildcats head to suburban Fort Worth on Wednesday, November 23rd to take on the Lone Star Brahmas for the first time of the season.