The puck dropped onto the Kansas Expocenter Ice Saturday night with the Lone Star Brahmas looking for a win to lock up the NAHL South Division Finals Championship. Lone Star had taken a one game lead over the Roadrunners in the best of five series with a 3 – 2 come from behind win on Friday scoring twice in a 15 second stretch midway through the third period.
The teams skated to a scoreless first 20 minutes. Lone Star went down a man late in the period on a Sebastian Vidmar high sticking call which nearly resulted in another Mike Gornall playoff goal. Carlos Fornaris fired a shot from the high slot that Jake Kupsky gloved down. He held it just long enough to get a whistle before it popped out and Gornall pumped it into the back of the net. Referee Sean McFarlane emphatically wiped off the goal.
Lone Star killed off the balance of the Vidmar minor to open the second, but went back on the penalty kill again moments later on a questionable tripping call against Cody Wickline. For the third time in as many power plays the Roadrunners were held off the scoreboard. The Brahmas finally got their first power play opportunity at 6:50 of the second when Gornall was whistled for a kneeing major against Hunter Stanley who was already suffering from flu like conditions.
At 7:35, Storm Wahlrab ripped one on goal from the near point off of Drew Vogler. Roman Uchyn jumped on the rebound and put the second chance into the twine from about five feet in front of the Topeka netminder.
Topeka scored at 15:01 to knot the score once again. On the play Jasen Fernsler fired one on net from the near point which Wahlrab blocked to the corner. Wahlrab and Dominic Lutz went into the corner after the loose puck where Lutz got the stick up under the visor of Wahlrab with no call. The puck came back out front to Cam Strong just outside the paint for a shot point blank that Jake Kupsky knocked down. However, Lutz left Wahlrab down in the corner and came streaking in to swat at the puck. With Strong in his lap, Kupsky had no chance to make the save. With just 1:20 left in period two, the Roadrunners came in with speed. Fornaris hit JB Baker with a pass deep on the off side for a backhander off of Kupsky. The big netminder sprawled across the goal mouth, but Gornall had two swipes at the rebound just getting it through for the 2 – 1 lead.
At 10:14 of the third and Pat Egan sitting in the penalty box, Johan Steen picked off an entry pass and hit Vidmar in stride near the redline. Vidmar skated in against Daniel Brickley waiting on Chad Guderian who had gotten behind the defense. Vidmar put the puck across ice right on Guderian’s tape for the shot past Vogler glove side.
With 1:44 to go in the final period, the Brahmas were caught off an offensive zone draw and Topeka went racing the other way. Lutz fired one on net from below the hash marks, but Kupsky snatched it out of the air with the glove to deny the scoring opportunity. Lone Star also had a near miss off an Uchyn wrister in the waning seconds, but could not get the puck to bounce their way resulting in overtime once again.
Off a stoppage of play with just over 11 minutes to go in overtime the teams lined up for a faceoff in front of the Brahmas’ bench. When the puck hit the ice, Uchyn picked Sly Sutter’s pocket to free the puck in the offensive zone. Caleb Thompson grabbed it at the top of the far circle and blasted a slapper just wide of the near post. When the puck came off the end board, Sean Giles was waiting at the halfwall. His rocket got just under the crossbar at 10:57 eliciting a call of “Put down the dessert and get on the dance floor. Sean Giles just invited the Brahmas to the ball,” from the voice of the Brahmas, Nick Marek.
The Brahmas out shot Topeka 31 – 18 in the contest. Lone Star scored on their only power play opportunity and once again the penalty kill was a brick wall holding Topeka off the board on four opportunities and scoring a short handed goal.
Lone Star will now return home and await their Robertson Cup Semi Finals opponent. The Janesville Jets as the number one seed have already advanced as have the Minnesota Wilderness. The Austin Bruins and Minot Minotauros are deadlocked at two games apiece with a decisive game five scheduled for Monday night. If Austin wins the series they will be the next team to visit the NYTEX Sports Centre. However, should Minot pull off the upset it will be the Wilderness who come calling. Either way the Brahmas will hold home ice advantage once again in the next round.