The ‘Cats took their five-game winning streak to Topeka, but couldn’t extend it to six, getting swept in a pair of weekend games. The Roadrunners took a 6-3 decision on Friday, followed by a 3-1 final on Saturday.
The Roadrunners rode the strength of three first-period goals to a 6-3 victory. Peter Halash scored the first of his two goals just over five minutes in before Nick Farmer continued his strong play of late, picking up a goal to tie things at 1-1 with just under seven minutes to play in the period. But the tie only lasted 28 seconds before James Ring popped in the first of his two goals, followed by Halash’s second, giving Topeka a 3-1 lead through one period. Tyler Poulsen added a goal in the second, ending Evan Cowley’s night after 23:39 played.
Cooper Cook stepped in and stopped the first 11 shots he faced, giving the Wildcats a chance to get back into the game. Eliot Grauer scored a pair of goals, with Cook stopping a Ross Luedtke penalty shot in between, cutting the deficit to 4-3. The ‘Cats stepped up the offensive pressure, but it led to a pair of Topeka breakaway goals just over a minute apart from Tyler Andrew and James Ring, putting the game out of reach late.
The Wildcats had seven power play opportunities, including one for five minutes after Roadrunner captain Drew Kariofiles was ejected for a major cross-checking penalty, but only capitalized on one of seven, coming on a 5-on-3 during the major.
The Wildcats bounced back strong on Saturday, but lost a nail-biter 3-1. Similar to Friday, the Roadrunners scored early with Tyler Andrew’s wrister from the top of the right wing circle beating Cowley high stick side for a 1-0 lead. Once again, the Wildcats came back to even the game, this time with Conor O’Neil getting one off an assist from Tyler Ledford for a 1-1 game at the midway point.
After allowing 38 shots the night before, the Roadrunners’ defense stifled many of the Wildcats’ offensive opportunities, limiting them to only 19 shots on goal. At the other end, the ‘Cats only allowed 21 shots on Cowley. The tie was broken with 3:20 left as Sean Gaffney got a puck in close and was afforded three whacks at it before it got through Cowley for a 2-1 game. Gaffney added an empty-net goal with 42 seconds left to finish off the 3-1 game and the Topeka sweep.
The teams will face each other again six more times: two in February and four times in March.
WEEKEND NOTES: Evan Cowley has only been pulled in the middle of three games this year, but has bounced back remarkably well in his next game each time. Following a mid-game pull, he has a 2.35 goals against average and a .914 save percentage—nearly a full goal allowed and 2.5% better than his overall numbers on the season… Four of Nick Farmer’s seven points this season have come in the last two weeks… The Roadrunners have the NAHL’s fourth-best power play unit (19.1% success), but the Wildcats have held it to only 3 goals on 26 opportunities (11.5%) through six games this season.
FREE GAME FRIDAY!: Help a great cause and see a game free! The Wildcats are having Wichita Falls Area Food Bank Night on Friday, January 25. Bring five non-perishable food items to the Wildcats’ office this week and get a voucher redeemable for a free ticket to Friday’s game! Donations will also be accepted at the door, but are preferred earlier. So come see a game free as you help those in need in your community!