Offseason 101: Season Recap
A long exciting season has ended, a hard fought playoff concluded. Now begins the next chapter: The Offseason. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to preview every step your RoadRunners take when building towards another exciting season. Before we can look ahead, however, let’s take a look back at 2012-2013. So take out your notebooks and grab a pen, we’re going to school. It’s Offseason 101.
As is the case with every new season, the fresh sheet of ice mirrors the hopes and dreams of every team in the league with everyone’s eyes on the NAHL’s ultimate prize, the Robertson Cup. The RoadRunners came into the new season brimming with confidence. In addition to returning a number of key players from the previous year, Topeka loaded up with several NAHL veterans who had become free agents due to the dormancy of New Mexico and St. Louis. Rounding out the roster was a batch of promising first-year players and it appeared the stables were stocked for a productive season.
A solid back end of veteran defensemen with experienced goaltenders Spencer Viele and Mackenzie Sawyer helped the RoadRunners to a strong start, going 6-0-1 to begin the season. Topeka’s only loss over that span came in a shootout against the Michigan Warriors. The first loss in regulation didn’t come until Oct. 5, a last-second heartbreaker at home to the Odessa Jackalopes (It was the only time Topeka would fall to Odessa, going 11-1-0 vs. the Jackalopes the rest of the way). The ‘Runners rebounded from and would not lose back-to-back games in regulation until just before the Christmas break. That may have been precipitated in part by the game ending brawl against Springfield on Dec. 8 that left Topeka short-handed by the resulting suspensions. The RoadRunners went 0-2-1 the next three games. Still, things looked pretty good at the holiday break with a 19-7-5 record.
The second half of the season saw the ‘Runners fashion a 20-7-2 record, all the more impressive considering the number of man-games lost to injury and suspension. February was one of the most challenging segments of the year. Events at the Expo took away practice ice and almost all of the games were played on the road. The team rose above these challenges and put together their longest winning streak of the season, a seven-game run that included six straight wins on hostile ice. The streak snapped suddenly at the hands of Wichita Falls who managed a sweep in the Expocentre, something the Wildcats had never been able to do before. Undaunted, the ‘Runners responded by going 7-1-1 the rest of the season (a 14-3-1 stretch over the last two months that propelled them ahead of the Texas Tornado to finish second in the NAHL South). This final stretch surge earned home ice for Topeka for the sixth straight season.
In the season prior, Topeka faced Texas in the first round of the playoffs, winning a pair of tough 2-1 battles at home before finishing the sweep in Frisco. Texas would be the RoadRunners first round opponent again but the results were not the same. This season, it was Texas who squeezed out a pair of 2-1 wins at the Expo before completing their sweep in Game 3. For the RoadRunners, it was the first time they had lost an opening round playoff series since moving to Topeka.
Despite the early exit, there were many things to celebrate along the way. Kyle Sharkey broke the all-time franchise career points record of 122 (Ryan White) and set the new mark at 129. Goalie Spencer Viele recorded his 50th career win. Also, several RoadRunners have committed to NCAA programs, including Sean Gaffney (Connecticut), Tyler Andrew (Ferris State), Ross Luedtke (St. Thomas), Kevin Patterson (Niagara), and the trio of Kyle Sharkey, Trace Strahle and Spencer Viele (Wisconsin – Stevens Point).
Tune in next week as Offseason 101 continues. Up next, the Pre-Draft Camp.