Friday night at the Dr. Pepper Arena saw the Texas Tornado looking to close out the Topeka Roadrunners in three straight to advance to the NAHL South Division Finals against the Amarillo Bulls. The Tornado were coming off two 2-1 wins on the Roadrunner’s home ice at Landon Arena.
The Tornado got things off on the right foot at 4:56 when Alexey Soloviev pinched to keep a puck in at the far point. Soloviev gave it to Scott Conway at the half-wall and he curled it to the high slot before ripping a wrister over Spencer Viele’s left shoulder. Conway would return the favor to Soloviev on the Tornado’s second goal when he sent it from deep in the far corner to Soloviev at the far point for a slapshot that went between Jackson Leef’s legs as he set the screen in front. The puck was in the back of the net before Viele ever saw it. Time of the goal was 8:25.
Less than 30 seconds into the second Justin Greenberg and Max Shuart had a two on one. Greenberg gave the puck to Shuart down the left side for a shot that made its way through Viele, but the goal was disallowed because Viele had kicked the net off. With just 42.1 seconds left in the second Drew Mayer grabbed a loose puck at the bottom of the far circle and hit Conway with a breakout pass in front of the Tornado bench. Conway went in all alone on Viele and totally undressed the Topeka netminder as he faked the backhand to get Viele to drop then went forehand over Viele sprawled on the ice.
Texas added to their lead in the third when Nick Neville sprung CJ Reuschlein down the far side. Reuschlein drove the far post then saucered a pass to Jason Eddy who had joined the rush. Viele got a piece of it but it snuck between his left arm and body for the goal at 5:38. Another Tornado breakaway resulted in Leef flying into the zone unimpeded to send a laser over Viele’s left shoulder.
Topeka finally got on the board at 10:28 on a scramble in front of Hunter Leisner. Juraj Kucirko got the goal with assists credited to Kevin Patterson and Trace Strahle. Replays showed that the real assist should have gone to Jake Kamrassas he went through the crease and knocked Leisner off his feet leaving an open net.
Any idea Topeka had of a comeback was quickly squelched as Mayer sent the puck to Shuart below the goal line. Shuart cycle the puck behind the net to Greenberg who skated out and snuck it between Viele and the far post. The Greenberg goal came just 31 seconds after the Topeka had scored. Nick Blase added to Topeka’s missery at 17:24 on the power play with a blast from the far point. Reuschlein and Soloviev got the assists. At 19:03 the Roadrunners reverted to their standard M.O. when they have been soundly paddled. Patterson took a run at Reuschlein and leveled him with an elbow from the blind side away from the play. Patterson then immediately sought refuge behind the linesman as several of the players paired off and locked up. Eddy who was trying to get to Patterson was pulled down by the Linesman as he approached Anthony Mousseau and Viele who were locked up along the end boards. Tough guy Kyle Sharkey tried to take advantage of Eddy being on his knees and fired a right which missed badly. Eddy jumped to his feet got Sharkey bent over and landed a huge right upper cut that dropped Sharkey face first on the ice where he immediately turtled. With just 13 seconds left Conway added insult to injury with another power play goal for the hat trick. Soloviev and Mitch Muellerlogged the assists.
The shots on goal battle was about the only thing the Roadrunners managed to win on the night out shooting Texas 32-31. The Tornado had the only power play goals on the evening going 2-5 while Topeka was 0-2. Hunter Leisner turned aside 90 of the 93 shots he faced in the three game series. Scott Conway (4G-1A) led the Tornado scoring punch. Alexey Soloviev (1G-4A) also had five points in the series. CJ Reuschlein (2G-2A) joined Conway as the only Tornado with multiple goals scored.
Head Coach Tony Curtale was pleased with the performance of his club in the series.
What I like about our team is that we had a bad period in the first period in Topeka and we got better every period since then. I think that is important in the playoffs.
The Texas Tornado will now move on to face the Amarillo Bulls in the NAHL South Division Finals. The schedule for the series has yet to be announced.