A weekend series between the Springfield Jr. Blues and Topeka Roadrunners is always cause for getting to the Nelson Center, because you're guaranteed to have something different happen in each game. The Jr. Blues and Roadrunners have split their season series evenly so far this year, which for the Jr. Blues is pretty impressive. Ever since the franchise started up in New Mexico, the Roadrunners have been able to edge the Jr. Blues in games won.
Friday night's game was a 7-2 blowout by Topeka. The Roadrunners opened the scoring up in the first period with three goals to Springfield's one from Parker Johnson. Ryan Atkinson's goal in the second period brought Springfield a little closer, but Topeka opened up the floodgates in the third period with four unanswered goals and easily earned the win. A check of the penalties shows plenty of roughing minutes for both sides. The new NAHL rules meant to eliminate fighting have really done a disservice to the game, as there were numerous moments where a fight would have actually resolved some issues in the game. Case in point, one of Topeka's players rode Jr. Blues defenseman Theo Tydingco into the stanchion between the visitors' bench and their penalty box. The threat of game suspensions for fighting plus suspensions for removing a players' helmet plus suspensions for removing your own helmet have all but killed off the use of fighting as a deterrent for rotten on-ice behavior. Roughing penalties don't do it.
Saturday night's game was a 3-2 literal last-minute win for the Jr. Blues. The score was 2-1 going into the 3rd period and the Jr. Blues played a preventative game until 14:59 when Topeka's Mick Bruce scored a tying goal. The wind fell out of the fans' sails on that, as did subsequent penalties by defenseman Terry Leabo at 16:29 and Mike Fazio at 16:54. Down to a 5-on-3, Topeka played with bringing in an extra attacker to bring home a goal. Then forward Ryan Atkinson found himself missing his stick.
Ryan Atkinson earned himself an "ALL THAT IS MAN" point last night with his stickless defensive play by blocking shots, hurrying shooters into taking bad shots, and even diving between attackers to sweep the puck away from their sticks. Atkinson's actions managed to kill the 5-on-3 almost singlehandedly and brought the fans to their feet for well-deserved cheers. Then at 19:31, Mike Fazio skated into the Roadrunners' zone and put the puck past backup goalie Mackenzie Sawyer. As the horn sounded and the Jr. Blues who were on the ice went to congratulate goalie Ryan Kellenberger on a good game, Topeka players left the bench and swarmed the Jr. Blues players to incite a team brawl. Springfield defenseman Ji Young Li and Topeka forward Drew Kariofiles squared off with Li getting the best of Kariofiles. As for the total penalties, I'll just link to the box score for you all. See that penalty by Codey Hansen, the one marked "Gross Misconduct, Tier 1"? That penalty's received when you deliberately strike an official. For the 1992 birth year player, that might mean an end to his playing days in the league.
Again, when you match Springfield and Topeka together, you never know what the result will be. That's what makes the games must-see events.
Springfield's next games are December 14th and 15th against the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings. The puck will drop at 7pm at the Nelson Center in Springfield. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children, seniors and veterans.