(Photo: Troy Young)
TOPEKA, Kans. – Sam Piazza scored a hat trick and Chase Munroe made 29 saves on 30 shots, as the Wichita Falls Wildcats (29-20-4) completed the two-game sweep of the Topeka Roadrunners with a 4-1 win at Landon Arena on Tuesday night.
Kyle Bauman also scored and added an assist for Wichita Falls, while Colin Staub, Todd Koritzinsky, Kirk Van Arkel, Evan Okeley and Max Reisinger each notched helpers as well.
The Wildcats opened the contest on the back foot, as Topeka outshot them 6-1 in the early going, but Wichita Falls would gain control of the period as the frame ticked along.
The Wildcats wound up outshooting Topeka 18-8 in the stanza, and made that pressure pay with a late power-play goal. Piazza made a nice play at the blue line to step inside a Roadrunner, skated into the faceoff circle, and threw a weak shot at PJ Bridges. The shot was blocked, but Piazza was there to pop the rebound home out of a netmouth scrum to make it 1-0 at 18:16 of the first. The marker was Piazza’s eighth of the season.
Wichita Falls continued to apply pressure in the second period, and doubled its advantage less than four minutes into the frame. Van Arkel forced a turnover on the backcheck, which allowed Bauman to grab the puck at the offensive blue line. Bauman skated in along the right-wing wall, cut to the middle and unleashed a beautiful wrister into the top corner to make it 2-0.
Piazza then took over the game, scoring twice in the last four minutes of the frame to make it 4-0. First, he finished off a four-on-two rush for the Wildcats, tucking a loose disc inside the post after Bridges could not handle a rebound at 16:26 of the second.
Minutes later, Piazza completed his hat trick. After Josh Haverstrom forced the puck to the front of the net, Piazza skated onto the loose puck and, with time winding down, he one-timed it towards the cage. His effort beat Bridges right as time expired, but the goal stood to make it 4-0 Wichita Falls.
Topeka picked up a consolation goal late in the third period,a s Ryan Polin spoiled Munroe’s shutout bid, but Wichita Falls saw the contest out for a 4-1 win.
The Wildcats are next in action on Friday, March 14 when they return to the Kay Yeager Coliseum to host the Kenai River Brown Bears. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., with tickets available by calling (940) 716-5555. Fans that cannot make it to the game can tune into video coverage available on FASTHockey.com, or an audio-only broadcast on UStream.com.
NOTES: Sam Piazza’s hat trick is the first by a Wildcat since Conor O’Neil scored three against Odessa on Feb. 1, 2013…With three points in Monday’s game against Topeka, Sam Piazza set a new single-season points record for Wildcats defensemen with 31 (seven goals, 24 assists); this does not include Kent Detlefsen, who scored 49 points in 2007-08, only 14 of which came in a Wildcats sweater.
Wichita Falls – Sam Piazza (power play) (Colin Staub, Todd Koritzinsky) 18:16
Wichita Falls – Kyle Bauman (Kirk Van Arkel) 3:43
Wichita Falls – Sam Piazza (Evan Okeley, Max Reisinger) 16:26
Wichita Falls – Sam Piazza (Kyle Bauman) 19:59
Topeka – Ryan Polin (power play) (Jake Kamrass, Tyler Poulsen) 17:38