RoadRunners open preseason with a victory

Richard Kelly

Three games in three days could do wonders to help the Topeka RoadRunners’ endurance as they approach regular season play.

Newcomer Kevin Novakovich had a goal and an assist in his first game in a Topeka RoadRunners uniform Friday night to help Topeka edge the Amarillo Bulls 3-2 in a pre-season matchup at Landon Arena.

Early on, the two teams battled to find the back of the net but Topeka’s Eric Rohrkemper and Amarillo’s Nikofor Szczerba held strong until Kevin Novakovich fired a wrap-around shot behind Szczerba to give Topeka the 1-0 lead going into the first intermission.

Playing against a team like Amarillo was a positive for Topeka, according to RoadRunners coach Scott Langer. The Bulls are new to the North American Hockey League this season, but they fought stride for stride with the RoadRunners up to the final buzzer.

“It’s always nice to play a better team and get some competition and do some things you don’t normally have to do,” said Langer. “Keeping it close was a good thing. You see our guys defensively got better. So we’re just using these games as a way to improve.”

The second period got the ‘Runners on the board again when Michael Hill fired a rolling puck past Szczerba to give Topeka a 2-0 advantage at the 8:37 mark. But at 14:42 of the period, Amarillo cut the lead in half when Mitch Rogge took a Zack Smoot pass and fired it glove side past Rohrkemper.

Topeka held the shot advantage 20-16 after the second period. But early in the third, Karl Beckman got a quick shot off and was stopped by Rohrkemper, but Rogge grabbed the rebound and stuffed it into the back of the net to tie the game.

Late in the third period, following rough play from both teams, Jordan Davis got her first goal in a Topeka jersey at the 14:06 mark. Davis’s hard slap shot ricocheted off of Szczerba before trickling across the goal line. The RoadRunners held off Amarillo in a frantic final minute to seal the victory.

While some players were competing in a game situation in Landon Arena for the first time, Hill played for Topeka last season. He was pleased to return to the ice.

“I love playing here,” said Hill. “That’s why I came back here. I had other options to play other places but I felt this was a better fit for me.”

The two teams play again tonight at 7:05 p.m. Sunday will be the second annual alumni game, with many returning faces from last season. It is scheduled to begin at noon.