The Wichita Falls Wildcats battled hard for 60 minutes against the Topeka RoadRunners on Monday night, but could not prevent the RoadRunners from claiming a 3-2 win and a 2-1 series lead at the Kay Yeager Coliseum.
Jeff Baum and Tommy Apap found the net for Wichita Falls, with Matt Koch, Colin Staub and Kevin Charyszyn picking up assists. Austi Shaw started in net, making 23 saves on 26 shots.
Topeka opened the first period with a strong push on offense and posted the first four shots on goal in the contest, but after the RoadRunners had a power-play chance fall by the wayside, the Wildcats began to push back and took the lead off a turnover at the Topeka blue line.
Baum intercepted a clearing attempt and swept the puck along the Charyszyn, then drove towards the net as Charysyzn skated in near the right circle.
Charysyzn turned the corner below the dot before pushing the puck towards the cage where Baum was on hand to swat the loose puck past Matej Tomek for a 1-0 lead.
In the second, Wichita Falls expanded its lead thanks to a power play tally, but the ?Runners responded well and finally managed to beat Shaw in the Wildcats? net.
In the early stages of the frame with the ?Cats on a power play, the puck landed on the tape of Koch at the point. The defenseman stepped around a RoadRunner and wristed a shot towards the net. It was blocked in front, but the rebound caromed to Apap to jam home from in close for a 2-0 lead.
Topeka pulled one back just over a minute later though, as Sly Sutter scored on a breakaway for his third goal of the series, making it 2-1.
The ?Runners then leveled the contest roughly halfway through the middle frame on a power-play marker, as JB Baker turned home a loose puck following a slapshot from the point by Sutter to send the contest into the third period tied, 3-3.
In the third, the RoadRunners earned an early power play after Baker was slashed on a breakway attempt, and Topeka wasted no time cashing in. Right off the ensuing faceoff, the puck trickled back to Daniel Brickley at the blue line, who wristed a shot through traffic that snuck inside the post for a 3-2 ?Runner lead.
Wichita Falls poured pressure forward in search of a tying goal, with Nick Farmer having the best chance for the Wildcats when he hammered a one-timer on net from the circle, but Tomek managed to kick it away to the corner.
The red-and-black pulled Shaw for the extra attacker in the dying moments as they continued to push for an equalizer, however none materialized, as Topeka claimed the 3-2 win to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
The Wildcats and RoadRunners will continue their series with Game 4 on Tuesday night, with puck drop slated for 7:05 p.m. at the KYC. Fans that cannot make it to the game may follow all the action on FASTHockey.com, with an audio-only stream provided via YouTube.