The Topeka RoadRunners have a big series in store.
In their season home openers, Topeka (5-1-0) looks to capitalize this weekend as they take on the Texas Tornado at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The ‘Runners split their series last weekend with rival St. Louis Bandits, losing Friday 5-1 but bouncing back for a 4-2 win Saturday. Texas (2-2-3) is coming off a tough weekend, losing two close games to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, including a 6-5 overtime loss on Saturday.
Topeka coach Scott Langer has seen progress in his team since the season began only two weeks ago, but with their home opener, he knows there will be nerves with players who’ve never suited up for a regular season game at Landon Arena. However, Langer is aware that his players have to be able to overcome it.
“We have to make sure the nerves go away quick, because you always get that with a younger group on opening night,” said Langer. “Their focus needs to be just winning hockey games at this point.”
Leading the RoadRunners in points is Michael Hill with 11, but the three players following him are all new additions to the team this year. Langer is happy to see that kind of production early on.
“Especially when you lost so many cores in your roster, you need the younger guys to help out in that department,” said Langer. “I think that we can do a little better job, but our guys see that every year, it seems like we’ve had depth scoring and contributions from multiple lines. And I think that’s what we need to get to.”
Topeka has received solid goaltending so far this season. In seven games, Topeka’s given up only 13 goals, equaling out to just over two goals per game. Texas’ goalscorers meanwhile have put up 25 goals on the season, including seven from forward Rock Einerson, who is tied for the North American Hockey League lead in points. But Texas has also given up 29 goals, equaling out to just over four goals against per game.
But between fine-tuning their goaltending and picking up their goal scoring, both of which Langer talked about, the RoadRunners are also dealing with players being hurt.
“We do have some injuries,” said Langer. “That’s been the problem right now. We just have to manage through it on how to mix and match some lines. I don’t like to do a lot of trades. It just depends on what our needs are. We have a made a few moves today (Wednesday) that will help us in the long run.”
This move includes placing Kevin Novakovich, who had two goals in three games before an injury, on a rehab assignment. But between their roster moves and the overall effort as a whole, Langer likes the direction the team is headed.
“Our guys have done good job learning and they’re ahead of the curb right now,” said Langer. “It’s still gonna’ take time. But as long as we’re still winning hockey games and continue to progress, that’ll make us happy.”