Topeka returns home to face Wildcats, riding recent success

Richard Kelly

While the Topeka RoadRunners surely missed their top points scorer Michael Hill during his suspension, but being undefeated while he was gone certainly makes the loss less noticeable.

Topeka (25-8-2) defeated North American Hockey League South Division rival Amarillo Bulls three times and the Corpus Christi Ice Rays three times as well, jumping to first place in the division.

The RoadRunners now return home for seven straight games, starting with a match tonight and Friday versus the Wichita Falls Wildcats. Each game starts at 7:05 p.m. and tonight is Family Fun Night, which means free parking and $1 hot dogs for fans.

Topeka head coach Scott Langer is very satisfied with his team’s effort of late.

“I like our hockey team, and with getting Hill back and getting (Kevin) Novakovich healthy, we’re starting to get our numbers back,” said Langer. “Being at home for seven games is certainly important for us, and hopefully we can continue the success.”

Topeka, who relied heavy on a few goal scorers early in the season with many young players on the team, had recently found more balanced scoring. But regardless, the return of Hill has Langer excited.

“Our guys stuck together and other guys stepped up,” said Langer. “(Hill being out) allowed other guys to show what they can bring to the table when we put them in those different roles. We’re much more of a balanced hockey team right now. But there’s no question that adding Mike Hill back to the lineup is huge for us.”

Zach Scrotenboer, who only had 14 points in his first 26 games, has now registered 14 points in the last eight games. This type of productivity is what Langer had been hoping for from his less experienced players early in the season.

“You look at (Schrotenboer), he’s got an (eight)-game point streak going,” said Langer. “You can insert him on any line and he can play every role.”

But Wichita Falls (17-16-3) is going to give Topeka a challenge despite their record. Mac Olson and Ryan Frost are tied for the team lead with 36 points.

The Wildcats are coming off a loss against the Texas Tornado and are 4-5-1 in their last ten games.

“They always play you tough,” said Langer. “They’re in your face and always adjusting. I’m not looking at their record at all. You look what they did early in the year and you know they have (talent).”