TOPEKA, KS – The Amarillo Bulls are headed back to the Robertson Cup National Championship Tournament.
Three third-period goals propelled the Bulls past the Topeka RoadRunners 3-1 in Game 4 of the Best-Of-Five South Division Final. The Bulls win the series 3-1 and are now 3-0 in Game four clinching games. It’s also the Bulls 2nd straight South Division championship.
Goaltender Gregg Gruehl was sensational for the Bulls stopping 25 of 26 shots he faced with many of them coming over the final 40 minutes of play.
“Our guys stuck to the game plan and we didn’t change anything up,” said Bulls Head Coach Dennis Williams after the win. “We started making some plays in the third period, outshooting them 14-5 after they did that to us in the second. It was one of those heated Amarillo-Topeka rivalries.
“We started out with a 2-0 lead and it wasn’t the way we wanted to wrap up the series, but we won’t critique the win and we’ll take it.”
The South Division playoff title is the third won by the Amarillo Bulls this season and the fourth overall. The Bulls already have last year’s South Division playoff title as well as this year’s regular season division title and NAHL Overall Regular Season championship under their belts. It’s an amazing accomplishment for a program that is just completing its second year.
“It’s pretty remarkable to say that in two years we have an opportunity to be in the national tournament again,” Williams said. “It’s a great testament to our scouting staff finding great players and those players buying into what we are selling. We took two guys out of the line-up and put two guys in and they responded.”
The Bulls trailed 1-0 heading into the third period but saved the best for last. Michael Erickson tied the game when his shot beat goaltender Peter Traber after the Bulls did a great job keeping the puck in at the blueline.
With less than three minutes remaining in regulation time, TJ Sarcona found the puck through a mad scramble in front and pushed the puck across the goal line to give the Bulls a 2-1 lead. Topeka pulled its goaltender in the final minute but couldn’t get the equalizer. Matt Johnson capped off the game with an empty net goal to round out the scoring.
It was a hard fought game with both teams not giving an inch.
The game was delayed almost 45 minutes due to a severe weather alert and tornado warning. That time span was what it took to get through the first 20 minutes as the electricity outside was also felt inside. Both Head Coaches Dennis Williams of Amarillo and RoadRunners’ Scott Langer got into heated words and were dismissed from the game.
Assistant Coaches Rocky Russo and Austin Sutter took over the remainder of the contest.
“It was a really good job by Rocky and Austin,” Williams commented. “Our players also did a great job listening to them and understanding that those guys are the ones in charge now. We want the players to work just as hard for them as they would for myself.”
The Bulls had two power play opportunities in the first six minutes of the game but were unsuccessful in scoring Topeka opening up the scoring on a two on one break late in the opening stanza. The Bulls outshot Topeka 12-7 in the first period.
In the game the Bulls outshot Topeka 30-26. There were nine total power plays with neither team scoring a goal.
The 2012 Robertson Cup Schedule will be release later this weekend once all of the Divisional games are completed. The tournament begins Thursday at Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco, TX. For further information regarding ticket packages please visit www.robertsoncup.com.
All Amarillo Bulls Robertson Cup tournament games will be aired live on ESPN1440 and www.amarillobulls.com as well as on Pay Per View courtesy of Fast Hockey. Broadcast times to be announced.