‘Runners bullied by Bulls, 3-1

Down For the Count Amarillo Bull defenseman John Rey takes down Topeka RoadRunner forward Gage Hough during the first period Friday night. Amarillo defeated Topeka 3-1 to advance to the Robertson Cup.

An overall successful season for the Topeka RoadRunners came to a disappointing end last Friday night.

Leading 1-0 with less than 10 minutes left in the contest, Topeka couldn’t fight off a rally from the Amarillo Bulls, who defeated the RoadRunners 3-1 at Landon Arena. With the win, the Bulls finished off the NAHL South division series to advance to the Robertson Cup.

The game included many testy moments, including an ejection of both coaches in the first period following a skirmish between the Amarillo and Topeka benches. The two coaches watched the remainder of the game from the upper balcony.

“I really, truly feel that our guys laid it on the line tonight,” said Scott Langer, Topeka head coach.”They deserved a better fate. They played a solid hockey game. We didn’t get some of the calls there and we had to kill [six penalties.] We gave it everything we had and deserved to win that game.”

Following an early delay because of a tornado warning in Shawnee County, the game got underway about 40 minutes late. In the first period, momentum swayed, but it was Topeka striking first at 14:28 when forward Ryan White fired a wrist shot from the right circle past Amarillo goaltender Gregg Gruehl. It was White’s third goal of the series.

In the second period, despite holding a 14-4 shot advantage, Gruehl kept the game close.

The Bulls broke through at 12:41 of the third period when forward Mike Erickson slipped a shot past Topeka goaltender Peter Traber. Forward TJ Sarcona scored the game-winning goal just minutes later at 17:44. Despite multiple opportunities, including a few late chances in the third period, Topeka was unable to tie the game. Instead, forward Matt Johnson finished off the RoadRunners with an empty-net goal at 19:59.

“We had some huge chances we just didn’t seem to capitalize on,” said Langer. “We just couldn’t get the puck in the upper third of the net. It came down to a turnover at the blue line late in the game and that’s when the fatigued showed.”

In the victory, Gruehl stopped 25 of 26 shots while in the loss, Traber stopped 27 of 29 shots. Langer said his team should be proud of its efforts though in the game and for the season as a whole. The team battled through multiple injuries and lineup changes over the season.

“You go look at the guys in that room and they have blood on the jerseys and missing teeth,” said Langer. “They didn’t leave anything in the dressing room. They left it all out on the ice.”