Last night in Frisco the Texas Tornado capped off an exciting run through the Robertson Cup tournament with their fifth championship. For the second time in two nights, the Tornado came from behind in third period to tie the game up before winning in overtime. In pool play the Tornado lost twice in overtime but advanced to the semifinals thanks to a strong goal differential, and from there they were able to turn their overtime fortunes around.
Texas won their semifinal over Fairbanks after Drew Allen netted the overtime winner late in overtime Monday night, advancing the hometown team to the final last night against the St. Louis Bandits. The Bandits reached the championship game by beating the regular season champion Amarillo Bulls in the first semifinal game on Monday.
The Tornado came out with a strong effort early and sustained offensive pressure through most of the first, outshooting the Bandits 12-3 through the first 20 minutes. The Tornado’s top line connected late in first as Marc Biggs one-timed a pass from Jack Prince from the right circle to give Texas a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission. But the lead didn’t last long, and neither did the lack of scoring.
NAHL league MVP Joe Kalisz scored on a powerplay to tie things up just over three minutes into the second, his fifth goal of the tournament. Kalisz wasn’t just impressive, but dominate this last week and he definitely showed why he could be a player we continue to hear about over the next few years. From that point forward, the Bandits controlled the game. Just as the Tornado looked like the better team in the first, the Bandits started winning battles and dominating stretches of the second frame. But Mitchell McPherson gave Texas a lead for the second time when a puck he threw at the net was deflected off a Bandits defenseman and into the net. But the lead was short-lived. Only 64 seconds later Stephen Bopp finished off a odd-man advantage by directing a Kalisz pass past Tornado netminder Hunter Leisner. Just under two minutes later, St. Louis did it again. This time Bopp made the pass to Drew Kariofiles and he whipped a one-timer in on another fast break to give the Bandits a 3-2 lead heading into the third.
In the third the Tornado took back the momentum and came out pushing for chances right away, but Spencer Viele was huge for St. Louis. Through the first ten minutes of the third period Texas had three solid scoring chances, but each was turned away as Viele became the Bandits best player late in the game. But the Tornado kept with their recent trend and forced overtime again. Jordan Lovick put a slapshot in the slot past Viele to tie things up at 3-3 with 5:34 to go in regulation. The Tornado and Bandits traded chances late with the crowd going crazy in the Dr. Pepper Arena, but it was only fitting that the game went to overtime. And in overtime, youngster Justin Greenberg knocked home a loose puck from Prince to win it all.
In the end the Tornado won their fifth title and capped off a good season with their first title since they won three in a row from 2004-2006. It was a great finish for some like captain Jack Prince, while new-comers like Justin made an impression in their first year in Frisco.