Minus some key pieces, the Topeka RoadRunners struggled to get into a rhythm for the first two periods against rival St. Louis.
By the time the Runners came to life offensively, the damage already had been done.
Topeka, which saw a 10-game winning streak snapped, spotted the Bandits the first three goals and came up short on its comeback attempt, dropping a 3-2 decision Friday night at Landon Arena.
Skating without injured players Michael Hill, Andrew O’Leary and Joe Van Antwerp, the Runners put up just 10 shots in the first two periods.
“We’ve got a lot of moving pieces right now and guys are playing some different spots,” RoadRunners coach Scott Langer said, “but we have some depth and we should’ve at least been able to find a way. We just were not very good in the first two periods, and (the Bandits) played really solid, sound defensive hockey. They came here to play and we didn’t.”
Things got off to a rocky start for the Runners, with St. Louis taking the early lead when Isak Quakenbush scored by virtue of a bouncing puck that deflected off goalie Eric Rohrkemper.
“It was a very slow start, and that first goal we gave up, you could just kind of tell it really put our guys down,” Langer said. “It was a very soft goal and it’s tough to recover from that.”
Just as Topeka was starting to gain some momentum in the second period, Bandits’ forward Chris Ciotti made the Runners pay for a turnover on a power-play, scoring a goal off a rush at 15:09. The goal was just the fourth short-handed tally the RoadRunners have given up all season, with three of the four coming against St. Louis.
St. Louis (38-13-4) then chased Rohrkemper from the game when Joe Kalisz slipped in a shot at 18:14.
The Runners came out strong in the third, creating some quality looks early in the period before finally getting on the board on Justin Hussar’s back-hander at 7:12. Defenseman Bob Marx then found the back of the net on a shot from the point to bring the Runners within a goal, but Topeka was unable to find the equalizer down the stretch.
“The good thing is our guys battled in the third,” Langer said. “I think if we would have had that energy level the whole game it would’ve been a different story.
“It’s a big learning lesson. You have to play 60 minutes to be able to beat that hockey team.”
Rohrkemper came up with 11 saves against 14 shots before being relieved by Rasmus Tirronen, who stopped all six shots he faced. St. Louis goalie Matt Green turned aside 17 of 19 shots.
Topeka (42-10-3) remains a point shy of clinching the North American Hockey League regular season title, something they will take aim at again tonight when they host the Bandits at 7:05 p.m.
St. Louis 1 2 1 — 3
Topeka 0 0 2 — 2
First period — 1. St. Louis, Quakenbush (unassisted), 12:12.
Second period — 2. St. Louis, Ciotti (Ganchar), 15:09, 3. St. Louis, Kalisz (Finch), 18:14.
Third period — 4. Topeka, Hussar (unassisted), 7:12, 5. Topeka, Marx (Lynes), 13:38.
Shots on goal — St. Louis 6-9-5 — 20. Topeka 4-6-9 — 19.
Goalies — St. Louis, Green. Topeka, Rohrkemper and Tirronen (2).
Attendance — 1,816.
Stars of the game — First star: Kalisz. Second star: Marx. Third star: Hussar.