With leading scorer and team captain Michael Hill out for the weekend with an injury, the RoadRunners experienced quite a bit of frustration Friday night at Landon Arena.
Fortunately, it was all wiped away with one play.
After two sub-par periods, the Runners found a way to squeeze out a dramatic 2-1 victory over New Mexico on the strength of Brian Christie's game-winning goal with just 10 seconds remaining.
"We talked about in the third period that if we find a way to win, everybody's just going to forget about those first 40 minutes, and our guys did that," RoadRunners coach Scott Langer said.
The RoadRunners (18-7-2) used pristine passing in the final seconds to set up Christie's goal from point-blank range.
"(Kyle) Sharkey made a great pass to (Andrew) O'Leary and I drove to the net," Christie said. "O'Leary fed it to me and I managed to put it in. They were great passes.
"I think we did a good job of not getting too frustrated and just staying poised."
The first period went scoreless thanks to solid play by both goalies. New Mexico netminder Macro Weiser stopped 12 shots in the first period while Rasmus Tirronen turned aside 10 shots for Topeka.
The Mustangs, who still have yet to earn a victory on the road, appeared to get on the board at 6:19 of the second period but had a goal wiped out by a crease violation. The Runners managed just five shots in the period.
Langer said Hill's absence made a big impact.
"The continuity in the lines are a little screwed up with Mike being out and guys having to move around," he said. "It's tough when you only have four days to practice with one another. Things were a little different."
The Runners finally broke through for a goal at the 4:43 mark of the third period when the newly acquired Alex Vazquez tapped in a shot from Bob Marx. The Mustangs then knotted up the score with five minutes left on Adam Chapie's goal to set up the thrilling finish.
Tirronen turned in a strong performance for the Runners, stopping 24 of 25 shots.
"He proved he was a Division I caliber goalie tonight," Langer said. "He had to face some chances that were huge. In the second period, they had about six, seven odd-man rushes that he probably had no business saving. With a veteran like that, that's what we need during these times."
The RoadRunners will host the Mustangs again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Fans are encouraged to bring stuffed animals to the game in order to take part in the Teddy Bear Toss, which will occur when the Runners score their first goal. The animals will be donated to the Topeka Rescue Mission.
New Mexico 0...0...1... —...1
First period — No scoring.
Second period — No scoring.
Third period — 1. Topeka, Vazquez (Marx); 4:43; 2. New Mexico, Chapie (Anderson), 15:00; 3. Topeka, Christie (O'Leary, Sharkey), 19:50.
Shots on goal — New Mexico 10-7-8 — 25. Topeka 12-5-11 — 28.
Goalies — New Mexico, Weiser. Topeka, Tirronen.
Attendance — 1,988.
Stars of the game — First star: Marx. Second star: Vazquez. Third star: Christie.