The Topeka RoadRunners, a member of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) are pleased to announce goaltender Matej Tomek has committed to play his Division I college hockey at the University of North Dakota beginning in the fall of 2015.
Tomek is from Bratislava, Slovakia and is listed on NHL Central Scouting’s B list (meaning he’s a projected early round draft pick) and he has been scouted and recruited heavily throughout the season. Having several options on the table made for a challenging decision, but North Dakota seemed like the right fit for the 17-year old netminder. “It was a very tough decision for me, but I chose UND because I feel they will best help me grow both as a player and as a person.” His major is undecided at this time, but he certainly has plenty of time for that.
As a youth, seeing the Slovakian national team win the 2002 World Championship in their own version of “Miracle On Ice” by defeating Russia 4-3 sparked a desire in him to the play the game, along with countless other youth of his country. “We didn’t really have set positions. But whenever we would split up to play, I always went to the net”, he recalls of his earliest hockey days. “My father bought me my first pads, and I’ve enjoyed playing goalie ever since.”
How does a young man from Bratislava land over 5,100 miles away in Topeka, KS to chase his hockey dreams? RoadRunner Head Coach / GM Scott Langer had been in contact with Matej’s advisor Scott Russell for some time. “Scott has a work ethic for his players that is tremendous”, Langer said. “We took the recruiting season to form a relationship and prove that Topeka and the NAHL would be a solid stepping stone for Matej's future.” For Tomek, he too did his research about his options. “My goal was to play college hockey, and Topeka’s coaching staff and superior organization seemed to give me the best opportunity.” Langer recognizes his young goalie’s methodical approach, and attributes that in part to his success. “Matej is an extremely level headed young man, especially for his age. Everything he does is well thought out. He has garnered a lot of attention and has taken it in stride like a pro.” Tomek is eligible for the NHL Entry Draft this year, to be held June 26–27, 2015 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.
Word of Tomek’s potential spread quickly at the NAHL Showcase Tournament in Blaine, MN in September, and he lived up to the hype, fashioning back to back shutout performances. At the end of December, he leads the NAHL in shutouts (5) and goals against average (1.40), and is second in save percentage (.940). His record stands at 14-2-1.
The 6’3”, 180 lb. Tomek turned 17 in May, and has been completing his high school locally in Topeka. “I want to thank my parents and family for supporting me throughout my career, and my teammates and the entire RoadRunners organization for helping me reach my dream. And I’m also grateful to Shawnee Heights High School for helping me complete my high school education.”
The University of North Dakota is based in Grand Forks, ND, and the hockey team is a member of the NCHC, competing in Division I of the NCAA. They skate in the 12,346 seat Ralph Engelstad Arena, led by 9th year head coach Dave Hakstol.
Tomek becomes the sixth RoadRunner on the current roster with Division I college plans finalized, joining Daniel Brickley (Minnesota State – Mankato), Shawn Brennan and Drew Vogler (Merrimack), Carlos Fornaris (Rensselaer Polytechnic) and Will Scherer (Brown University).