Topeka clinches second place in division, wins 4-1

Richard Kelly, Washburn

Second place for the NAHL South Division playoffs officially belongs to the Topeka RoadRunners.

Given the chance to clinch home-ice in the first round of the NAHL playoffs, Topeka (37-14-7) finished off the Texas Tornado, winning 4-1 Sunday at Landon Arena. The loss also clinches Texas for third place in the division.

After a scoreless and somewhat uninspired first period, Topeka head coach Scott Langer was happy with how his team responded for the remainder of the game. The RoadRunners scored three goals in the second period to take a 3-0 advantage into the third.

“They just went back to how they were supposed to play,” said Langer. “We got pucks behind their defense, we were solid on the forecheck, and it paid off.”

In the third period, unlike Friday and Saturday, Topeka held off Texas, only allowing a goal by forward Brandon Platt with nine seconds left in the game and also maintaining offensive pressure. Goaltender Spencer Viele was a strong spot for the RoadRunners, stopping 27 of 28 shots on the night. RoadRunners forward and captain Drew Kariofiles said his play was crucial to the team’s win on Sunday.

“He’s a huge part of this team,” said Kariofiles . “All weekend, he played great and deserved the win tonight.”

After the aforementioned scoreless first period, the scoring started at 2:54 of the second period when forward Brogan Rafferty slipped a shot past Texas goalie Aaron Davis. Rafferty was in his first game with the team, following an injury to forward Brandon Brossoit on Saturday.

Roughly four minutes later, at 6:55, Kariofiles scored on a wrist shot glove side high to make it 2-0. At 16:22, forward Tyler Andrew redirected a shot from forward Sean Gaffney to make it 3-0.

In the third period, at 5:14, forward Tyler Poulsen scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway to essentially put the game out of reach at 4-0. The late goal by Texas seemed to go unphased, as Topeka held on for the 4-1 victory.

An interesting sidenote in the game came late, when forward Jerad Tafoya had to leave the game following an injury.

“It’s certainly got to get checked out,” said Langer. “He took a puck square to the teeth. He’s missing some teeth. He’s a heart and soul kind of guy, so it’s tough to watch.”

As the regular season nears its close, Langer said it’s important for his team to maintain focused next weekend in Wichita Falls, Texas against the Wildcats.

“Those guys (Wichita Falls) are going to be battling,” said Langer. “So we can’t let our guard down. We’re playing for pride, and we’re about winning hockey games. We’ll see what next week brings.”

The puck drop is set to take place at 7:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday night at Kay Yeager Coliseum.