We’re goin’ streaking!

Richard Kelly

Three weekends and six wins down leaves the Topeka RoadRunners looking to end their eight-game road trip with perfection.

Topeka, who travelled to Albert Lea, Minn. for a Friday and Saturday match-up this past weekend, got a hard fought 6-5 win in regulation on Friday versus Albert Lea. Saturday, a strong third period propelled them, after holding a 1-0 lead through two frames, to knock off the Thunder 4-0. Evan Karembelas got the start in both contests.

Going into the weekend, R.J. Enga, RoadRunners assistant coach knew the series might be closer than Albert Lea’s record (11-28-5 going into the series) portrayed.

“You know, Albert Lea’s record doesn’t reflect how they’re playing,” said Enga. “They’ve been losing some games, but I just started my pre-game scout on the video here and they’ve been losing a lot of one goal games. So, they’re obviously hanging around and giving themselves an opportunity to get some points.”

Enga’s comments rang true in Friday’s contest.

The Thunder held a 2-0 lead after the first period after Anthony Iaquinto netted two goals. The ‘Runners (37-7-4) charged back in the second period with four straight goals to lead 4-2, but Albert Lea got a late goal in the second to make it a one goal game heading to the third. Justin Kovacs had two of the game’s goals and an assist on Michael Hill’s goal in the second period. The two teams swapped goals back and forth twice in the third period, as Topeka held on for eventual 6-5 victory.

Saturday’s game left a little more breathing room. Kovacs continued his recent success with a first period goal that would wind up being the game-winner. The last half of the third period would provide three more goals for Topeka, including another from Kovacs as well as a goal from Tony Thomas and Patrick Kirtland.  Karembelas stopped 22 shots for the shutout.

Topeka’s only series left in their road trip is this weekend’s Friday and Saturday night series with the Owatonna Express (27-18-4), also of Minnesota.

The only injury for the ‘Runners, forward Cole Schneider, is expected to return soon. Schneider had 29 points in 21 games before being injured. Enga knows he’ll make a contribution upon returning.

“We’re looking forward to getting him back here in the next few weeks. He is skating at home and has a personal trainer,” said Enga. “The kid’s an animal. He wants to come back and play. We’re certainly going to welcome that. He was a huge element before his injury.”

After the road trip, Topeka will face the St. Louis Bandits in Landon Arena. The Bandits, who currently have two games in hand on Topeka, are currently trailing the RoadRunners by six points in the North American Hockey League’s South Division.

And overall, despite the current best winning percentage in the league at .813 and an eight-game winning streak, Enga just tries to keep that kind of talk low with the team.

“It’s just not something we focus on. We focus on each weekend and each game. You know ‘what are we going to do to win this night and that next night?’ We certainly aren’t looking ahead at all,” he said. “Whether our opponent is the Detroit Red Wings or the Albert Lea Thunder, we’re going to prepare and get ready to play our best game each night.”