TOPEKA, KS – It will come down to the final weekend of the regular season to decide whether or not the Amarillo Bulls advance to the North American Hockey League’s Robertson Cup South Division Playoffs.
Despite a 4-2 loss to the Topeka RoadRunners on Saturday night at Kansas Expo Center Landon Arena, the Amarillo Bulls remained five points back of the sixth and final playoff spot and six points of fifth place. The Wenatchee Wild lost 4-1 to the Lone Star Brahmas on Saturday night and the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees had the night off.
The Bulls have games remaining at home versus Wichita Falls on Tuesday night and then back to back road contests in Corpus Christi next Friday and Saturday. The Wild will close at home with three against the Topeka RoadRunners, while the Killer Bees face the Odessa Jackalopes at State Farm Arena.
In the Kansas capital on Saturday night the Amarillo Bulls couldn’t come back from two one goal deficits after one point having the game tied 1-1 after the first period.
Elijiah Barriga and AJ Duggan netted markers for Amarillo, while Anton Martinsson took the loss in goal. Martinsson played well stopping 35 of 39 shots he faced. The Bulls had more than 27 shots directed at goaltender Matej Tomek who was solid in net. In the third period with the Bulls trailing by two Tomek and his RoadRunners teammates stopped the visitors on a goal mouth scramble. Amarillo had four opportunities to put the puck in the net but couldn’t finish of the play.
Starts have been key for the Amarillo Bulls over the last seven games and on Saturday night a better beginning made a whole lot of difference. Topeka netted the first goal just prior to the midway mark, keeping the puck inside Bulls territory for an extended period of time. Seven minutes later the Bulls pulled even thanks to the hard work of JJ Huerena, Cody Gylling and Elijiah Barriga. Huerena dug the puck out behind the net and put it in front for Barriaga who roofed a shot past Matej Tomek at the 16:20 mark. That goal gave the Bulls lots of confidence going forward and they outshot the Topeka towards the end of the stanza 14-11.
Topeka took the lead early in the second period when its forward was left open in front of the net. Six minutes later the RoadRunners made it 3-1 converting a pass in front of the net. The Bulls were not done as AJ Duggan scored on a pretty passing play from Luke Novak and Kyle Hartman. It was Novak who spotted Duggan open with a terrific pass that he was able to beat Tomek. The RoadRunners outshot the Bulls 13-11 in the middle stanza.
In the third period a Bulls turnover deep inside their zone led the Topeka adding a fourth goal to round out the scoring. The Bulls press forward and look to cut the deficit to a single goal but were thwarted by the goaltending of Tomek and the RoadRunners defense.
It was a great weekend for the Bulls penalty killing unit as Topeka failed to score on a combined 12 power plays including six on each night. The Road Runners outshot the Bulls 39-27.
Hockey is back at the Budweiser Bull Pen in the Amarillo Civic Center on Tuesday night for the final regular season home game. The Bulls will host the Wichita Falls Wildcats in a critical game at 7 pm. It’s Spirit Night and fans can create posters and win prizes in various categories. Tickets are $5 for Red and Silver Sections only and they can be picked up at the Bulls Office located at 301 South Polk, Civic Center Box Office and all Panhandle Ticket Outlets including United Supermarkets or online at www.panhandletickets.com. For further information on 2015-16 Season Tickets, please call the Bulls Office at 806-242-1122.