Goalie leaps into starting role

Goalie Evan Karembelas is seeking a collegiate career after replacing starter Cooper Frederick earlier in the season.

Richard Kelly

It’s hard to assume the starting role of a team when little notice is given, but Evan Karembelas of the Topeka RoadRunners did just that to start this season.

With an 8-2-2 record so far this year, Karembelas helped the ‘Runners carry the load while expected starter Cooper Frederick was out with an injury.

The 20-year-old spent most of his childhood in Ft. St. John, British Columbia, but was born in Greece. His interest in hockey began when he moved to Canada. He has now spent his last four years playing junior hockey.

And the role of playing a starter was one that Karembelas didn’t expect at the beginning of the season, but one that he is very appreciative of, despite the fact he’s recently been sidelined with pneumonia and the flu.

“Cooper went down and I was kind of forced to play, which is fine with me,” said Karembelas. “You know, we did well, and I didn’t get the team down in a hole.”

Karembelas expects to return to the ice this week or the next and hopes after this weekend’s home games against Albert Lea, he’ll be able to return to the ice.

Last season, it was tough for Karembelas as a goalie. He played in the British Columbia Hockey League and wasn’t satisfied with where he was. Now, in his last season of junior hockey, he feels he fits in with the RoadRunners and hopes his effort this year will turn into a college scholarship.

So far, he’s gotten a chance to check out the city of Topeka and likes the balance between it and the previous locations he’s played and lived in. Specifically, he feels his team in Topeka meshes well and will continue to throughout the season.

“The coaching staff basically told me and a few of the veteran guys it’s gonna take good defense, good goaltending and good leadership at the start of the season to pull us through until everyone gels,” said Karembelas. “I think right now we are starting to gel, with our couple of new additions.”

Karembelas went on to include that one of the newest additions, Ryan White, was actually awarded the South Division Player of the Week honors for the North American Hockey League. He scored one goal and had three assists last weekend.

As the season continues, Karembelas sees the competition between him and Frederick continuing for starting goalie, and even sees the possibility of recently acquired backup Eric Rohrkemper staying on the team as a backup goalie, meaning the ‘Runners will have three solid goaltenders on their roster.

And it doesn’t necessarily matter who is the starting goalie. When the season ends, Karembelas wants the RoadRunners to be champions of the NAHL. Their biggest opponent, the St. Louis Bandits, also sit with 18 points in the South Division.

“We know we can win it. We go into every game expecting to win. That’s the mindset coming into every game. We don’t care who we’re playing, “said Karembelas. “Having St. Louis in our division, who has won it the last three years, makes for a good test. We expect to win all three of the games coming up against them.”