Pilots look to continue success in second half of season

At an integral midway point in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) season, the Topeka Pilots are in a good spot.

Sitting at 23-10-3 in a tightly contested race in the NAHL South Division, Topeka has gone 8-1-1 in its last 10 games to move within four points of the second place Amarillo Bulls and within eight points of the first place Lone Star Brahmas in the division.

After going 23-29-8 during the 2018-2019 season, Topeka is currently even with last season’s win total, with 24 games still to play.

The Pilots have had a balanced scoring attack leading the way, with five players over 20 total points, including the team’s captain, Austin McCarthy, who leads Topeka with 32 points (12 goals and 20 assists).

Defenseman Luc Salem has also garnered a lot of attention for his offensive abilities, including being selected as the NAHL’s Defenseman of the Month in December. Salem accumulated nine points in eight games over the month stretch, as he continues to work towards a collegiate scholarship.

Returning forwards Connor Zilisch, Quinn Green, and Michael Muschitiello have also provided a scoring threat, with each amassing eight or more goals on the season.

December was an exciting month for McCarthy as he announced his collegiate commitment to Ferris State University. He will suit up for the Bulldogs next season.

He joins goaltenders Guy Blessing and Josh Langford, as well as defenseman Matt Clark, as current Pilots players who are committed collegiately.

In net, Blessing and Langford have been solid. Blessing has gone 9-7-1 since joining Topeka, while Langford has been dominant, going 5-0-1 in his six games since being traded from the New Mexico Ice Wolves.

As Topeka looks to continue to build on its success, an opportunity will be present on Feb 17th and 18th for multiple age-out (1999 birth year) Pilots players to pick up attention at the NCAA and NHL level at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Attleboro, Mass.

More than 200 scouts from the collegiate and professional levels will be present at the tournament, with the event’s purpose being to expose the talent of age-out players who have yet to receive a collegiate commitment.

The exact number of players Topeka sends to the tournament will depend on divisional standings after their next series on Jan. 17-18.

But before the Top Prospects Tournament, Topeka has business to take care of on home ice at Landon Arena.

After recently finishing a six-game road trip (4-1-1), Topeka will begin a six-game homestand with a two-game series against the Odessa Jackalopes next weekend, as they look to continue their chase of the top seeds in the NAHL South Division.