Pilots reflect on positive inaugural season

As the finishing touches are now on the Topeka Pilots’ first season, the players, personnel and staff are heading into the offseason with big plans for season two in Topeka.
The Pilots finished the NAHL regular season with a 23-29-8 record, good for 54 points, earning a fifth-place spot in the NAHL South Division.
Topeka was in the playoff race until the final weekend of the regular season, narrowly missing the playoffs. They went 5-4-1 in their final 10 games of the regular season, finishing strong.
“Throughout the season, we certainly had some ups and downs, but the important part is we didn’t ever give up,” Pilots coach Simon Watson said. “I’m proud of the guys that we had this year that made us as strong as we were.”
With the NAHL designed to showcase some of the best talent for collegiate and professional scouts, forwards Brendan Schultz and Zeke Zeier committed in the last several weeks to Utica College and Bethel University, respectively, for the 2019-2020 seasons.
Several other Pilots also announced collegiate commitments throughout the season.
“These players have worked their whole lives to progress their academics and athletics to the next level,” Watson said. “These are young men that have aspirations, and we’re lucky to be a part of that.”
Off the ice, the Pilots were active in the community, partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Topeka, Topeka Rescue Mission Children’s Palace, Helping Hands Humane Society, Military Veteran Project, and other organizations.
The team was involved in several big fundraisers throughout the season, raising money and awareness through philanthropic activities.
“Our team is obviously comprised of hockey players, but these young men want to be role models in the community,” Watson said. “We are planting roots here in the Topeka community, and we’re excited about the network we’re establishing.”
The team also held a strong level of sponsorships and business relationships throughout the year, which Watson said his organization is thankful for, as they hope to continue to build on these relationships into next season.
And for Watson, who was in his first season as a head coach, he knew there would be growing pains for he and his team this season, but he is proud of how they handled them.
“We understood and knew it would be a progression this season,” Watson said. “We knew we had to learn from our mistakes and get better as the year went on, and I think we did exactly that.”
Watson also credited owner Lamar Hunt Jr., the entire Pilots front office staff and the team’s personnel and billet families for laying the groundwork for a successful future.
“None of this would be possible without the whole operation pitching in and people giving their hearts and souls to the game of hockey and to these players,” Watson said.
The Pilots would also like to formally thank all of its sponsors from the 2018-2019 season and look forward to continuing these relationships.
For fans interested in purchasing season tickets, full-season and half-season packages are now available and can be purchased at www.topekapilots.com/seasontickets.