Karembelas seeking scholarship

Richard Kelly

Evan Karembelas, who has been the starting goaltender in 17 games for the Topeka RoadRunners this season, knows that an eight-game road trip can tire players out.

But two of the eight games are under their belt and it’s off to an encouraging start.

Heading to Wichita Falls, Texas, the RoadRunners (33-7-4) were coming off a six game home-stand and were winners of their last two games. Friday night’s effort sent it to three games as Topeka knocked off Wichita Falls (12-26-6) 5-0 in a shutout for Cooper Frederick, who made 25 saves on the night.

Michael Hill had the first two goals of the contest, with a goal in the first and second period to give the ‘Runners a two goal cushion. And with two more goals in the second period and another early in the third, the game ended decisively. For Topeka, four of the five goals came on the power play.

Saturday’s effort looked to be much of the same as Friday’s as the ‘Runners held a 4-1 lead going into the third period. But three third period goals by the Wildcats, two on the powerplay and one shorthanded, tied the game at four and sent the game to overtime. When a shootout seemed imminent, Edgars Lipsbergs scored with less than a second left to give Topeka the 5-4 win.

With the weekend’s wins, Topeka now has a four-game winning streak. Before leaving for Wichita Falls, RoadRunners head coach Scott Langer mentioned keys to the road trip, which were seen in the series with Wichita Falls.

“On the ice, we just have to limit our turnovers. Turnovers can spark any hockey team,” said Langer. “You know, we’ve lost games this year and that’s exactly why we’ve lost. You know, simple hockey. One goal is enough to win and that’s how you have to look at it.”

And Karembelas, who is in his last season of junior hockey eligibility, wants to make sure the road trip doesn’t slow his team.

“When you go on the road, you don’t have that same home support, so you might not be as fired up. So, you have to keep it simple, come out hard and take their home crowd out of it right away,” he said. “We’ve been together long enough to know what we have to do. We just have to do it on the road now.”

Additionally, knowing that scouts have been at RoadRunners games watching the team play, it provides another boost for Karembelas, who wants to play college hockey after this season.

“It just makes you want to come out hard every night and lets you know you can’t take a night off,” said Karembelas. “Even if there’s not a scout watching, they’ll call in and ask ‘how did this guy do?’ or ‘can I get a game tape of this guy?’ so you wanna play as well as you can.”

Langer reiterated his team has to fight to finish in the top spot in the South Division of the North American Hockey League, which would secure home ice in the playoffs. Additionally, he said that the scholarships for most players come late in the year, so those two things must motivate them to play their highest level.

And to truly continue competing, Langer was certain his team’s depth would help carry them through.

“Some guys are really putting up good numbers this year. I think it starts from training camp when we worked on goal scoring and a lot of our end zone offense stuff,” said Langer. “And guys bought in. Having that many goal scorers is really special. You don’t have that every year.”