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March Madness Begins with Sweep

The Wildcats’ march forth toward the playoffs continued with a pair of wins in Topeka over the weekend.  The ‘Cats took Friday’s game in convincing fashion 4-1, then came from a 3-1 deficit with 10 minutes to go for a 4-3 win on Saturday.

The Wildcats snapped the Roadrunners seven-game winning streak on Friday thanks to a three-goal second period en route to a 4-1 win.  Wildcat-killer Tyler Andrew got the Roadrunners on the board first—eight of his 16 goals this season have come against Wichita Falls.  But the Wildcats shut the Roadrunners down the rest of the way.

Eliot Grauer’s powerplay goal evened things up in the second period, as Tyler Ledford picked up the first of his three assists in the period.  Patrick Yudez gave the Wildcats a lead off Ledford’s no-look, behind-the-back centering feed, followed only 2:40 later by Colin Staub victimizing Topeka netminder Spencer Viele for a 3-1 lead.

Back at the other end of the ice, Evan Cowley faced down 21 shots, coming away with 20 saves.  He was perfect on 14 in the final 40 minutes.  George Pagonis finished it all off with an empty-net goal from his own blueline for a 4-1 final.

For about fifteen minutes on Saturday, it looked as though the Wildcats were only going to get a split on the weekend.  But a giant offensive effort in the final ten minutes turned the tables as the Wildcats escaped with a 4-3 win.

Conor O’Neil got the Wildcats on the board first, scoring midway through the opening period before the Roadrunners took the lead for the first time since the opening period Friday off goals from Brandon Brossoit and Tyler Groat.  Jerad Tafoya made it a 3-1 game early in the third.

A two-goal lead is incredibly dangerous, and the Roadrunners saw why. Three minutes after extending the lead, Sam Piazza scored his first goal as a Wildcat, tapping in a puck after George Pagonis rang a shot off the post. With under three minutes left, Charlie Hemstrom’s blast off a faceoff was stopped by Viele but a joint effort of Rudy Junda and Sami Salminen in front of the net resulted in the big Finn’s first goal since his January 12 hat trick and a 3-3 game.

As the final fifteen seconds ticked down, the Roadrunners figured the third period nightmare was over and the game was headed to overtime, but Colin Staub had other plans.  Slowed but not stopped by a knee-to-knee hit in the opening period, he put in the eventual game-winner with 8.5 seconds on the clock for a 4-3 lead.  Topeka brought in an extra attacker but couldn’t get to the net as the Wildcats held on for the 4-3 final.

The Wildcats play the Roadrunners at the Kay Yeager Coliseum to finish out the regular season on March 29 and 30.