(Photo: Cody Wooten)
TOPEKA, Kans. – The Wichita Falls Wildcats held the Topeka RoadRunners to just 24 shots on goal on Friday night, but they could not prevent Topeka from posting a 6-2 win in Game 1 of the South Division Semifinals at Landon Arena.
Kevin Charyszyn and Shane Kuzmeski scored for Wichita Falls in the loss, while Paul Soubry and Evan Okeley registered assists. David Zevnik started for the Wildcats, making 18 saves in his first start of the 2015 Robertson Cup playoffs.
Unsurprisingly for two teams that were evenly matched during the regular season, the first period played out fairly evenly, but it was Topeka who struck first following a strong transition play.
A Wildcats dump-in from the right-wing wall ran all the way around to the left-wing side where the puck quickly landed on the stick of Sam Rennaker. The forward started up ice and gained the zone along the right side, then centered from the half-wall for Sly Sutter, who roofed his shot over a sprawling Zevnik to make it 1-0 at 11:07 of the opening period.
The RoadRunners built on their lead in the second, as Dominic Lutz potted a rebound from his own shot to make it 2-0 moments after Austin Beaulieu had a chance in the slot at the other end.
With time winding down in the frame and the puck in the offensive zone of the ‘Runners, it seemed Wichita Falls would head into the intermission trailing by two, but a quick transition play changed that just before the end of the second.
The puck was knocked free from the defensive zone and then played up to Okeley at the offensive blue line. Okeley stepped into the offensive zone before feeding a pass into the slot for an onrushing Charyszyn to collect and wrist past Matej Tomek with just over six seconds remaining in the stanza.
Wichita Falls launched an early offensive surge in the third period, with Austin Albrecht and Jonny Lazarus creating good chances, but Tomek stood strong in net to shift momentum back to Topeka.
Soon after, the RoadRunners regained control of the contest with two goals in quick succession. First, Yu Hikosaka scored to make it 3-1 Topeka, before Daniel Rzavsky beat Zevnik glove-side just 16 seconds later to push the score to 4-1 in the blink of an eye.
The Runners tacked another on when Sutter picked up his second goal of the contest, pushing a rebound home from in close.
Kuzmeski pulled one back for Wichita Falls soon after when he found twine from just inside the blue line to make it 5-2. However that marker was quickly cancelled out by Cam Strong’s breakaway effort which made it 6-2 with 13:10 remaining.
Despite their best efforts, the ‘Cats could not mount a comeback in the remaining time, as Topeka claimed Game 1, 6-2.
The Wildcats and RoadRunners reconvene for Game 2 on Saturday night, with puck drop slated for 7:05 p.m. Fans that cannot make it to the arena may follow all the action on FASTHockey.com, with an audio-only stream provided via YouTube.
Tickets for the 2015 Robertson Cup playoffs are on sale now at the Kay Yeager Coliseum box office, and can be purchased in person or by calling (940) 716-5555. Stay updated on the latest team news and notes by connecting with the Wildcats on Facebook (WFWildcats), Twitter (@WFWildcats), Instagram (WFWildcats) and on YouTube (Wichita Falls Wildcats).
Topeka – Sly Sutter (Sam Rennaker) 11:07
Topeka – Dominic Lutz (Cam Strong) 15:45
Wichita Falls – Kevin Charyszyn (Evan Okeley) 19:54
Topeka – Yu Hikosaka (Mike Gornall) 2:39
Topeka – Daniel Rzavsky (Yu Hikosaka) 2:55
Topeka – Sly Sutter (Sam Rennaker) 8:39
Wichita Falls – Shane Kuzmeski (Paul Soubry) 10:26
Topeka – Cam Strong (unassisted) 13:10