‘Runners season ends after Monday loss

Richard Kelly

With the referee’s hand raised in the air, Alec Hagaman of the Topeka RoadRunners skated off to the penalty box for a slashing penalty Monday night. It ended up being one of five first-period penalties on Topeka’s way to 15 for the contest.

On the night of the fifth and final match for the North American Hockey League South Division between the Topeka RoadRunners and the St. Louis Bandits, the Bandits took advantage of a tough and questionable outing by the officiating crew on their way to a 5-0 win in front of 2,722 at Landon Arena.

The scoring started 9:41 into the game when Craig Kitto buried the puck behind Erik Rohrkemper to give the Bandits the lead. The score remained that way into first intermission.

The second period sent the game out of reach for Topeka, as St. Louis picked up four more goals, three on the powerplay. After Brooks Bertsch made it 2-0, Colton Hargrove, C.J. Eick and Ryan Stouffer scored with Hargrove’s goal coming at 15:06, Eick’s at 16:14 and Stouffer’s at 17:19. The period saw Topeka pick up seven more infractions to St. Louis’ two and including Topeka’s Patrick Kirtland being ejected late in the second period.

The last frame went scoreless and with 28-24 shot total, the South Division Championship belonged to the Bandits.

Topeka head coach Scott Langer found the game, specifically the first two periods, to be incredibly difficult to handle after the year the team had.

“This one’s tough. There’s a lot of money that goes into this level of hockey and there’s a long nine-month season, and to have it decided by a 20-year-old official is tough,” said Langer. “We never had an opportunity to get into that hockey game.

“I’m not gonna’ say we had a great effort, but there was no way we had an opportunity from three minutes into that game, and that’s tough to swallow. I’ve never seen a disgrace like that ever. Not when that much is on the line between these two teams and I don’t even know what to say.”

Even with the killing of many of the penalties, Topeka found no rhythm in a game littered with stoppages and frustration.

“There was nothing left in the tank. There was no flow. And you know, they’re (St. Louis) a very good team. They know how to win. And when they get that opportunity, they’re going to bury it.”

Although there was an obvious inconsistency in officiating even from Bandits head coach Dave Brown’s standpoint, he was proud of the way performed

“You know, our powerplay finally worked. We took advantage of all the penalties,” said Brown. “It’s unfortunate there were so many, but we were on the right end of it, I guess, so we can’t be too upset.”

For now, Topeka must look to next season. But Langer did have a few things to say to his team in the locker room following the loss.

“I just told them I loved them and that I appreciate they gave me and the city of Topeka. They’re not losers by any means,” he said. “This team accomplished a great deal this year and they added a lot to our identity moving forward.”