Topeka puts halt to Tornado streak

Richard Kelly

A 15-game winning streak for the Texas Tornado didn’t seem to intimidate the Topeka RoadRunners.

Topeka (12-5-2) used a three-goal second period to propel them into the lead and didn’t look back as they defeated the Tornado 5-3 Friday night at Landon Arena. It is the first time that Texas (17-3-3) has lost since September 26.

Topeka coach Scott Langer felt satisfied with his team’s overall effort and their ability to knock off a powerful opponent, even with all three Texas goals coming while Topeka was shorthanded.

“That’s a good hockey team over there and their powerplay was certainly clicking,” said Langer. “We had some unfortunate goals hit the back of the net. But our guys kept going. They knew it was going to take 60 minutes to beat a team like that.”

Despite a strong start to the first period, including outshooting Texas 5-0 before their first shot on goal, it was an early Tornado lead off of JD Howard’s  goal at the 9:26 mark. At 12:09, another goal put Texas up 2-0. This would remain the score going into the second period, despite a 9-4 Topeka lead in shots on goal after the opening period.

Passing led to Topeka’s first goal when Nate Milam grabbed an Andrew O’Leary passed and fired it past Texas’s Jimmy Kruger to bring Topeka within one goal. The RoadRunners tied it at 11:01 mark on Justin Hussar’s goal and just under three minutes later at the 13:58 mark, Topeka’s top goal scorer Michael Hill gave the ‘Runners the lead going into the second intermission.

The communication between players and unselfishness that has begun to take place is part of what’s helping Topeka, according to Langer.

“We’re learning to use each other and create some two-on-ones,” said Langer. “Our creativity is a lot better.”

Jordan Davis put Topeka up 4-2 early in the third period, as he poked a rebound past Jimmy Kruger.  Texas closed the gap to 4-3, but a late goal by Hussar sealed the victory.

Hussar felt like part of the difference as opposed to when Topeka lost two games to Texas early in October is confidence.

“We all believe in each other more,” said Hussar. “We pass the puck around more and we all buy in to the systems. We’re starting to fit in to everything.”

And while Michael Hill still leads Topeka in points, the next four top goal scorers for the RoadRunners are rookies this season. For Langer, this balance and progression from the younger players is crucial.

“When theyounger guys start getting up to the level of your older guys, you’ve got yourself a hockey team,” said Langer. “It’s a matter of gelling. It takes time. Sometimes in the past, our team did it quick and sometimes it takes a little longer. Tonight, we kind of saw some of the younger guys coming into their own. It’s a good feeling.”

Erik Rohrkemper stopped 26 of 29 shots for Topeka to earn the victory. Kruger stopped 22 of 27 shots in the loss.

Topeka is back in action tonight against Texas. Faceoff is at 7:05 p.m.