RoadRunners pounce on Wildcats in game 1

Two goals in mind Nate Milam tries to slip past Daniel Hildebrand on Saturday night. Milam scored two goals in Topeka’s 5-1 victory.

Richard Kelly

There was no let up in the Topeka RoadRunners effort Saturday night.

Aided by three goals before the 10 minute mark of the first period, the Topeka trounced the Wichita Falls Wildcats 5-1 in the first game of their five-game series to begin the North American Hockey League playoffs.

For Topeka, who had lost three of their final four regular season games, putting together a complete effort was important.

“[Topeka head] coach [Scott] Langer said this was probably the most complete game we’ve played in a little bit,” said defensemen Chris Bond, who had two assists. “That’s great to start the playoffs. Hopefully we can carry that momentum into the rest of the series.”

Nate Milam scored on a redirected shot from Bond at 3:44 to give the RoadRunners a 1-0 lead. Davey Middleton fired a one-time shot past Matt Green to increase the lead to 2-0 at 5:27. At 6:19, on the powerplay, Mikhail Sentyurin fired a rebound past Rasmus Tirronen to cut the lead to 2-1. But at 7:22 another redirection from a Bond gave Kyle Buffardi his first goal as a RoadRunner.

Bond said it felt satisfying to help a player get his first goal with the team.

“It’s always nice to see a guy get his first goal,” said Bond. “It took me a while to get my first goal. It’s a special feeling and for it to happen in the playoffs makes it that much bigger.”

Topeka held a 17-13 shot advantage after the first period.

In the second period, at 9:52, Kyle Sharkey extended the RoadRunner lead to 4-1. Wichita Falls generated few quality chances in the period, partially in credit to a 16-7 shot advantage for the RoadRunners and solid defensive play.

Sharkey said even before the second period, Topeka had control of the game’s momentum.

“We got to the rink and we were ready to go,” said Sharkey. “That first 10 minutes of the first period really set the tone, and we were able to maintain that for the whole game.”

Milam scored another goal at 3:11, increasing the lead to the 5-1 final score.

Langer made note that his team’s all around effort is what was needed in the first game of the series.

“[The defense] was absolutely able to support our offense tonight,” said Langer. “They took care of those shots, and our forwards did a good job of getting down there and had good screens, and that adds offense. It was a good night.”

Tirronen stopped 25 of 26 shots in the victory as Green made 21 of 26 saves in the loss.

The teams will meet again tonight at 6:05 p.m. at Landon Arena.