RoadRunners prepare for season, focusing on more than hockey

Since 2007, Topeka has been home to the Topeka RoadRunners, an NAHL (North American Hockey League) hockey team.

Head coach Scott Langer has been coaching the RoadRunners for 10 seasons. 2014-2015 is his 11th season. Langer said the ultimate goal for the season “first and foremost is moving players to Division 1 hockey and the NCAA hockey.”

Langer prides himself with the number of players that have gone on to play college hockey, with 111 as of last season.

“Our biggest thing,” said Langer “we want to be a strong community member. Our players do a ton of community service. We want to make these players better individuals by the time they graduate this program. That is our overall goal.”

To name a few community service projects the entire team participates in is Get Fit, which is a once-a-week after school program at local elementary schools where 3-4 players educate the students on being healthy. Reading with the RoadRunners is another event at local elementary schools where 3-4 players read books to students. The players also participate in breast cancer awareness and Habitat for Humanity.

“We are out there thousands of hours in the community. It’s a huge part of their time here,” said Langer. “It helps the community but it also helps the player. They really grow. The type of young men that this process makes at the end of the day when they are ready to go to college, that is what we are all about.”

Last season, Langer made a few changes, making the players play faster. This season, Langer hopes to continue that strategy by getting the players to become a family.

“The biggest thing is becoming a family quick and really relying on each other,” said Langer. “That team last year was unbreakable and somehow as a coach I have to find that formula again, and that’s not easy with all the personalities and the new guys on the roster. My goals as a coach is to get this group as tight as last year’s group, and we will be ok if we do that.”

However, with the new season bringing new players, it can be frustrating to get the players to play as one team. Nevertheless, Langer is happy with the team so far.

“I think our scouting staff did a real good job of putting players that are very capable on the ice,” said Langer, “and now it’s time to get down to our roster to 25, and that’s difficult.”

With the coming of the new season, there are 10 returning players: Daniel Rzavsky (Forward), Sly Sutter ( Forward), Jasen Fernsler (Forward), Yu Hikosaka (Forward), Sam Rennaker (Forward), Mike Gornall (Forward), Willie Brown (Forward), Shawn Brennan (Defense), Ryan Polin (Defense), Drew Vogler (Goalie).

“The returners are good hockey players,” said Langer. “The question with the returners is, are they going to be good leaders.”

Forward Mike Gornall is a returning player on the RoadRunners team. This Penguin’s fan has been playing hockey since he was six years old. After the NAHL, Gornall hopes to get a scholarship to a Division 1 school to play college hockey.

Gornall’s goal this year is to lead the team to win the south division playoffs as well as a possible Robertson Cup.

Garnall along with the rest of the team is working on conditioning and learning the game systems.

“We need to get the systems part down or else we won’t be good without it,” said Gornall. “After that it’s conditioning and hard work. Because once you get later in the season, down the stretch and going into playoffs, it’s the team that is in shape the most that is going to perform the best.”

Gornall already feels the team has begun to unite as a family. “I feel that already this early we have come together very well as a team. Everyone gets along with each other. There is no clashes between personalities.”

“Hockey is a great sport to watch,” said Gornall. “It’s very intense, very fast pace. Hockey, football and basketball have a lot in common; it’s a lot of physicality, a lot of speed, a lot of fast paced action. It’s very exciting. If you’re looking for a good show, come here and watch a game.”

The Topeka RoadRunners will kick of their first pre-season game Sept. 5 at 7:05 p.m. against the Aberdeen Wings at Landon Arena.

Exhibition game tickets are $5.00 + fees and taxes

The Roadrunners will open their season against the Corpus Christi Ice Rays Sept. 12 and 13 at 7:05pm at Landon Arena.

Regular game tickets are $11.00 + fees and taxes

Washburn is sponsoring its own section. The first 150 students who show their ID will get a free ticket. There are also fundraising opportunities for organizations on campus.

To learn more about ticket prices, group prices or fundraising opportunities, call the RoadRunners’ main office at (785) 286-7825.