With the RoadRunners needing a goal to clinch a shootout against Wichita Falls, it’s safe to say most of the Landon Arena crowd might have been a little caught off guard when RoadRunners coach Scott Langer sent defenseman Joe Van Antwerp out on the ice.
In fact, Van Antwerp was just as surprised as anyone.
“To tell the you the truth, I wasn’t really expecting to get the call to go up there,” he said.
Langer’s decision turned out to be right call.
Van Antwerp, who came into the game with just three goals on the season, came up with the game-winner in the shootout to lift the RoadRunners to a 4-3 victory Thursday night.
“I just went with my gut,” Langer said. “He’s a kid whose heartbeat doesn’t get too high. I knew that he wasn’t going to feel (the pressure) and he was just going to go to work. He works on that kind of stuff, he’s got real good hands. I thought he was our best all-around player tonight, so why not go with him?”
Van Antwerp said he jumped at the opportunity to take part in the shootout.
“When coach said my name I was excited, and I was able to bury it. Every pre-game we do a little shootout deal, so I get my practice in there.”
The RoadRunners, who have won six straight and now have a three-point lead in the South Division standings, outscored the Wildcats 4-3 in the shootout. Brian Christie, Kyle Sharkey and Justin Hussar also scored in the shootout while Eric Rohrkemper came up with two stops.
Early on, newly acquired forward Davey Middleton got the RoadRunners (26-8-2) on the board at 14:45 of the first period, redirecting Chris Bond’s shot.
After an uneventful second period, the third period opened to a frenetic pace. Sharkey lit the lamp 12 seconds into the third, but Wichita Falls answered 20 seconds later when Dakota Klecha scored on a breakaway. The RoadRunners then regained the two-goal cushion when Daniel Dupell took advantage of a forecheck and fired in a shot off a Wichita Falls turnover.
However, the Wildcats quickly grabbed the momentum from the Runners. Steven Hoshaw found the back of the net at 6:12 before Miha Stebih notched the game-tying goal at 14:09.
Although pleased to see his team get a seven-game homestand started on the right note, Langer said he wasn’t overly thrilled by his team’s performance.
“Things just didn’t go our way for most of the game and a lot of that can be attributed to the work ethic of (the Wildcats),” Langer said. “They backed-checked pretty hard and didn’t give us a whole lot of opportunities on the chance chart.
“But we got to take the two points. We have been playing some good hockey, and tonight obviously wasn’t one of those games, but to stay in the top spot is important. We could have easily sunk down on the bench and gave those two points a game.”
The RoadRunners will host the Wildcats again at 7:05 p.m. Friday.
Wichita Falls 0 0 3 0 0 -- 3
Topeka 1 0 2 0 1 -- 4
First period -- 1. Topeka, Middleton (Bond, Davis), 14:45.
Second period -- No scoring.
Third period -- 2. Topeka, Sharkey (Davis, Poe), 0:12; 3. Wichita Falls, Klecha (Howshaw), 0:32. 4. Topeka, Dupell (unassisted) 1:53; 5. Wichita Falls, Hoshaw (unassisted), 13:48; 6. Wichita Falls, Stebih (Betts, Yudez), 14:09.
Overtime -- No scoring.
Shootout -- Wichita Falls: Klecha, Frost, Sentyurin; Topeka: Christie, Sharkey, Hussar, Van Antwerp.
Shots on goal -- Wichita Falls 7-6-13-1 -- 27. Topeka 11-6-5-5 -- 33.
Goalies -- Wichita Falls, Green. Topeka, Rohrkemper.
Attendance -- 1,420.
Stars of the game -- First star: Van Antwerp. Second star: Davis. Third star: Sharkey.