(Photo: Cody Wooten)
WICHITA FALLS, Texas – The Wichita Falls Wildcats charged out to a three-goal lead at the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Tuesday night, but could not prevent the Topeka RoadRunners from erasing the deficit to claim a 5-3 win.
With the loss, the Wildcats have been eliminated from the 2015 Robertson Cup playoffs.
Tommy Apap, Austin Albrecht and Shane Kuzmeski each found twine in the contest, with Austin Beaulieu, Matt Koch, Jonny Lazarus and Kevin Charyszyn providing assists in the game. Austin Shaw started in net and made 30 saves in the game.
Wichita Falls opened the contest in inauspicious fashion when Jake Townsend took an early penalty for checking from behind, but the ‘Cats killed of the ensuring power play for Topeka and carried the momentum from that successful kill into the rest of the period.
The red-and-black then broke the deadlock on a power play of their own on a precision passing play that started with Koch at the blue line. The defenseman sent the disc to Beaulieu in the left circle, who in turn one-timed the puck across to the right-wing circle where Apap stood waiting. With the puck entering his wheelhouse, Apap blasted a one-timer past Matej Tomek at 9:33 of the first for a 1-0 lead for Wichita Falls.
The Wildcats expanded their lead shortly thereafter, capitalizing on a turnover forced by Lazarus. The forward stripped a RoadRunners defenseman in the offensive zone and skated towards the net uncontested. As he drew Tomek towards him, Lazarus slipped a pass to Albrecht charging towards the net to slam home for a 2-0 edge.
Late in the first, Tyler Irvine raced in on Shaw on a breakaway with a chance to cut the deficit in half for Topeka, but Shaw stood strong to turn Irvine’s effort away, as the period ended with the score 2-0 Wichita Falls.
The ‘Cats picked up where they left off to start the second when Kuzmeski raced into the offensive zone and flashed a wrist shot past Tomek for a 3-0 lead on his fourth tally of the series, but the ‘Runners managed to claw back into the contest thanks to a pair of power-play chances.
First, Sly Sutter cut the Wichita Falls lead to two goals with a slapshot that deflected off a body and past Shaw to make it 3-1.
Then, just under three minutes later, Topeka struck once more when Carlos Fornaris found the net with a shot from above the left-wing circle to pull the RoadRunners within one.
Fornaris almost scored another in the dying seconds of the middle frame after he gloved down a clearing attempt by the Wildcats, but Koch managed to get a stick to his shot to deflect the effort out of play and preserve the 3-2 lead for the red-and-black.
The RoadRunners continued their comeback in the third period, with Yu Hikosaka scoring the third power-play tally of the night for Topeka to make it 3-3 just 6:27 into the frame.
The ‘Runners took their first lead of the night just past the halfway mark of the frame when Daniel Brickley’s shot wound through traffic and in to make it 4-3 with under eight minutes remaining.
Wichita Falls charged forward hoping for a goal to extend their season, but Sutter would score into the empty net to seal the 5-3 win and end the Wildcats’ season.
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).
Wichita Falls – Tommy Apap (power play) (Austin Beaulieu, Matt Koch) 9:33
Wichita Falls – Austin Albrecht (Jonathan Lazarus) 11:59
Wichita Falls – Shane Kuzmeski (Kevin Charyszyn) 5:41
Topeka – Sly Sutter (power play) (Sam Rennaker, Mike Gornall) 10:06
Topeka – Carlos Fornaris (power play) (Daniel Brickley) 12:52
Topeka – Yu Hikosaka (power play) (Carlos Fornaris, Cam Strong) 6:27
Topeka – Daniel Brickley (Jasen Fernsler) 12:28
Topeka – Sly Sutter (empty net) (Daniel Brickley) 19:12