Despite beer, hockey fans disappointed

Richard Kelly

The Topeka Roadrunners were close in both games again the St. Louis Bandits this past weekend.

But in playing one of the premier teams in the North American Hockey League, close doesn’t always cut it.

Friday night’s match, deemed as “College Night,” started rough from the get go with a 2-0 lead early on for the Bandits. The RoadRunners never quite recovered. A strong effort by St. Louis goalie Tyler Bruggeman stole much of the show from that point forward.

The match wound up very physical with multiple powerplay chances for both teams throughout the contest. Topeka’s lone goal did come on the powerplay with Tony Thomas redirecting a shot late in the second period to cut the lead to 2-1, but that’s the closest the ‘Runners would get. A powerplay opportunity late in the contest became a chance for Topeka to get it to a 3-2 game, but instead the game became 4-1 on an empty net goal with just 49 seconds remaining and that’s how it would end.

The ‘Runners did outshoot the Bandits 27-16, but a strong defensive effort, combined with tough goaltending and ability to pick up goals on rebounds doomed the RoadRunner’s effort Friday night.

Langer did make remarks after the game that he expected a better start to the game Saturday night.

And his wish was granted. Despite a 0-0 score at first intermission, his team looked determined during the contest to put more close shots on St. Louis’ Tyler Bruggeman. It paid off early in the second period when Topeka’s Ryan White finally beat the stymieing Bruggeman to put the ‘Runners up 1-0. But just over two minutes later, St. Louis tied the game at one. It would stay deadlocked at one through the end of the second period.

The teams would go to the third period with the Bandits on a 5-3 powerplay. While Topeka would kill off the two penalties, shortly following their ceasing, the Bandits capitalized to make it 2-1. Edgars Lipsbergs would tie it for the ‘Runners about halfway through the third on a powerplay of their own. The teams would then head to a third intermission tied at two goals apiece.

After five minutes of overtime that gave each team only a few chances, the game would go to a shootout. The Bandits scored on their second and third shooters with goals by Craig Kitto and Daniel Olszewski and the ‘Runners failed to score in the shootout, as the Bandits wound up with the 3-2 win. They have now won 15 games straight.

But unlike after Friday’s match, Langer didn’t fault his team after Saturday’s contest.

“I thought our effort was a heck of a lot better tonight,” Langer said. “We had them on the ropes. We just haven’t been all that great in shootouts this year and that’s something we’re certainly going to have clean up. But our guys played hard, so I can’t fault them for effort.”

Topeka’s lead after the weekend is only one point over St. Louis in the South Division. Langer knows it might be a tough stretch the rest of the way.

“I’m not sure we can afford to take a night off now and we have to hope that a couple of people do us a favor at this point,” Langer said.

This week, Topeka returns home Friday and Saturday night against the Texas Tornado. Face-off will be 7:05 p.m. Following Saturday’s contest, the ‘Runners will endure an eight-game roadtrip.