Milam’s overtime goal lifts RoadRunners past Bulls

Richard Kelly

The Topeka RoadRunners are starting to get the hang of playoff overtimes.

After struggling in their extra sessions in the previous series with Wichita Falls, forward Nate Milam capitalized on a loose puck and knocked a rebound behind Nikfor Szczerba at 14:07 of overtime as Topeka defeated Amarillo 3-2 in game 1 of the North American Hockey League South Division Finals.

Friday’s game was in Topeka’s hands as they lead 2-1 late in the third period but a one-timer by Matt Johnson tied the game at 18:44 which lead to an overtime period.

Topeka head coach Scott Langer was proud his team’s reaction after the late Amarillo goal and their ability to respond in the extra session. Topeka outshot Amarillo 10-6 in overtime.

“It’s such a heartbreaker when you play that well and then have a breakdown,” said Langer. “I was upset, but it is what it is. You can’t change it. We just focused on what we were doing well and what we needed to do to execute.”

Early on in the first period on Friday, Amarillo capitalized on a powerplay chance when defenseman Brandon Lubin fired a shot past goaltender Rasmus Tirronen. While they outshot Amarillo 11-5, Topeka trailed 1-0 after the first period.

In the second period, at 11:51, forward Jordan Davis was able to take a rebound and fire a backhanded shot past Szczerba to tie the game at one. The RoadRunners outshot the Bulls 9-3 in the second period.

Milam’s goal in the overtime was his second goal of the night. His first goal was scored at the 7:19 mark of the third period when forward Justin Hussar fed him a pass in front of the net as he buried a shot behind Szczerba.

With forward Michael Hill out with an injury, Langer has been happy with how Milam has stepped up in his game in the postseason.

“Before we even started, we set some goals for him through the playoffs, and he’s on the way to achieving them,” said Langer. “When Nate’s going, he’s a competitor and he just doesn’t stop. He showed up big again.”

Tirronen stopped 22 of 24 shots on the night while Szczerba turned aside 37 of 40.

Game two is slated for 7:05 p.m. Saturday.