As physical and hard hitting as Thursday’s game between the Topeka RoadRunners and Corpus Christi was, it was hardly a surprise that the contest would come down to the special teams.
After giving up three Corpus Christi power-play goals through the first two periods, it was the RoadRunners’ special teams who shined brightest in the end, lifting the Runners to a hard-fought 5-3 victory with four-straight unanswered power-play goals at Landon Arena.
Topeka (29-8-3) trailed 3-1 in the third period but took advantage of some untimely IceRays’ penalties down the stretch.
Forward Michael Hill and defenseman Bob Marx were the main catalysts for the Runners, combining for five goals. Hill notched a hat trick while Marx came up with two key power-play goals to get the game tied.
“Special teams really won the game for us,” Marx said. “If it wasn’t for our power play we probably wouldn’t have gotten it done today.”
Hill put the Runners on the board first, lighting the lamp at the 13:51 mark of the first period. Corpus Christi then took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play, scoring with just 38 seconds left in the period when Jason Souva whistled a low shot past Rasmus Tirronen.
The IceRays then capitalized on two more power plays in the second period to take a 3-1 lead. First, Beau Walker scored off a rebound at 3:45 before Souza struck again at 9:54. Marx gave Topeka some much-needed life late in the second, firing in a power-play goal at 16:21 to keep the Runners within striking distance.
Marx came up huge again early in the third period, knotting the score on the power-play again 49 seconds into the third.
RoadRunners coach Scott Langer said he liked the aggressiveness that Marx displayed.
“We let (Marx) have the green light -- he doesn’t shoot enough,” he said. “We’ve been asking him to ‘shoot pucks, shoot pucks and get ‘em through,’ and he’s tentative, but tonight he wasn’t. He did good things.
“Our D can shoot pucks. They need to shoot more often.”
After Marx’s equalizer, the IceRays had a prime opportunity to regain the lead after Nate Milam was ejected for a check from behind, setting up a four-minute Corpus Christi power play.
After killing off two minutes of Milam’s penalty, Tirronen was then called for slashing, putting the IceRays on a 5-on-3 advantage. However, Corpus Christi was then penalized seconds later, negating the two-man advantage.
Hill then came up with power-play goals at 13:12 and 16:54 to seal the game.
Hill, who was playing in his fourth game since returning from a suspension, said it felt good to deliver a breakthrough performance.
“It felt really good,” Hill said. “I had that suspension and then I had a goal in my first game back, but after that I didn’t have such a good game. Tonight, I just strapped my helmet on a different way and just went out there and played the game I can.”
RoadRunners’ forward Brian Christie missed the game due to travel problems.
The RoadRunners will play the second of a three-game series with Corpus Christi at 7:05 tonight.
Corpus Christi ...1 ...2 ...0...-- ...3
Topeka 1 ...1 ...3...-- ...5
First period -- 1. Topeka. Hill (Ramsey, Hussar), 13:51; 2. Corpus Chirsti, Souza (Obregon, Saucerman), 19:22.
Second period -- 3. Corpus Christi, Walker (Monteith), 3:45; 4. Corpus Christi, Souva (Walker, Hughes), 9:54; 5. Topeka, Marx (unassisted), 16:21.
Third period -- 6. Topeka, Marx (Ramsey), 0:49; 7. Topeka, Hill (Hussar), 13:12. 8. Topeka, Hill (Sharkey), 16:54.
Shots on goal -- Corpus Christi 13-15-6 -- 34 . Topeka 12-5-11 -- 28.
Goalies -- Corpus Christi, Copley. Topeka, Tirronen.
Attendance -- 1,732.
Stars of the game -- First star: Hill. Second star: Marx. Third star: Ramsey.