by Arch Ecker
The Second Annual RoadRunner Alumni Game features 19 players who have worn the RoadRunner jersey, and a number of them did so while the franchise was located in Santa Fe, NM. Over the course of the next two weeks, the players will be revealed on the website at topekaroadrunners.com.
Last years Alumni team showcased 11 players who had never played in Topeka. This year, five of those players return as the Alumni team takes on more of a “Topeka” look. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
ANDREW GOBERSTEIN: One of the original members of the Lone Star Cavalry (before they moved to Santa Fe), Goberstein has the distinction of scoring the first goal in RoadRunner history (scored on Sat. September 25, 2004 against the Central Texas Marshals). The RoadRunners won 6-1, outshooting Central Texas 54-29 and “RoadRunner Hockey” was born. Regarded as an intellectual player, Goberstein went on to play Division I hockey for Bentley College. Head Coach Scott Langer recalls, “He was always a student of the game. Very smart on the ice, and technically sound.” He was a player who always had intelligent questions as he hungered for more knowledge. “He kept the staff on our toes, no question.” The 5’11”, 185 lb. forward from Northbrook, IL tallied 55 points in his two year career. He later attended Division I Bentley College, and currently lives and works in New York.
ANDREW JOHNSON: The first team captain in RoadRunner history, “Johnny” also began his career with the Cavalry. His first season he put up a modest 4 goals and 5 assists but added 149 PIM’s as well. Head Coach Scott Langer said, “Andrew possessed a strong work ethic and displayed strong leadership qualities.” After being surprised with being named captain the next season, his production increased to 17 goals and 12 assists, and he set a franchise record for single season PIM’s at 171, a mark that still stands. He has received numerous awards as a scholar athlete, and initially attended Bentley College before transferring to University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. The 5’11”, 200 lb. winger hails from Andover, MN.
JASON KRISPEL: After the Bozeman ICEDOGS withdrew from the NAHL, Krispel elected to continue his playing career in Santa Fe, where he played in all 67 games. “’Krispy’ has tremendous hands and excellent vision”, said head coach Scott Langer. “He was a phenomenal setup man with a good head on his shoulders and that made him perfect for penalty kill and power play situations.” His play in Santa Fe (21 goals and 38 assists) earned him a college deal with the University of Connecticut Huskies. Acknowledged by Langer for having an “energetic personality”, the speedy Krispel is expected to add spark to the Alumni roster.
BRANT MARPLE: The two-year RoadRunner veteran from Apple Valley, MN came to the RoadRunners in the fall of 2004, the team’s first season in the Land of Enchantment. He racked up 10 goals and 3 assists that season in 44 games. Though he may not have scored a large volume of goals that season, they always seemed to come at just the right time. “He was the kind of player that always seemed to come up big in big situations”, praised head coach Scott Langer. In his second season, Marple put himself in a position where he became an every night player, becoming an “Iron Man” playing in all 58 games. His offensive production picked up as well, posting 17 goals and 27 assists. Coach Langer said, “Brant was a player who was constantly improving. He made it impossible to not put him in the lineup every night.” Beyond his on-ice contributions, Marple was just one of those players everyone loved to be around. “Brant always had a smile on his face and brought enthusiasm every day.” It was the combination of those characteristics that led to him being named the team’s Most Valuable Player for 2005-06, voted on by the coaching staff and the players. After two seasons with Santa Fe and the tutelage of Langer, Marple headed north where he played sparingly for Northern Michigan University for two seasons. He recently signed a deal to play professionally for the Fort Wayne Komets.
BRYAN PLASZCZ: While he was playing high school hockey in Apple Valley, MN Plaszcz planned on joining the Danville Wings (NAHL), but things “went south” he said, and he suddenly found himself scrambling to find a team. Then he caught wind that Scott Langer was involved in coaching a new team in Texas. “We had known each other previously and I trusted him and trusted what he told me”, said Plaszcz. Not only did he go on to be named “Defenseman of the Year”, he was also crowned MVP of his team and made First Team All-NAHL. After a very respectable season, the franchise was sold to a group who moved the team suddenly to Santa Fe, NM. “We went to training camp not knowing what would happen with our team. I had a few opportunities to go to other teams but I stuck with Langer and became a RoadRunner when we moved to New Mexico.” Being a RoadRunner gave Plaszcz a great deal of satisfaction. “It was a blend of two of the best years of my life. I guess the friends I have made is the best part of the experience, from my housing families to the coaches to the guys I played with. The friendships will last for a long time.” And as is always the case, junior hockey changed Plaszcz for the better. “Playing for the RoadRunners has done quite a bit for me in my life. Some of my best friends played on the RoadRunners with me. It got me a D-1 scholarship to one of the best hockey schools in the nation. It brought me to a part of the country that I never imagined that I would be in.” That part of the country to which he refers is Maine. “My second year playing for Langer he worked his butt off to get me a scholarship and I ended up getting a scholarship to the University of Maine. I played there for two years and had a blast but things just weren’t working out there for me. I ended up transferring to the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire and it’s worked out great.”
One other addition to the RoadRunner Alumni team is no surprise, as two year veteran and now part-owner Josh Kamrass returns to Topeka. For the Atlanta native, his Junior A career began in Montana with the Helena Bighorns, where he put up 23 points as a rookie. But when the Bighorns withdrew from the NAHL to compete at the Junior B level (NorPac), he became a free agent with the opportunity to go wherever he felt would best benefit his career. Discussions with coach Scott Langer helped him make his decision. “In talking to Coach Langer that summer, the team sounded like it was heading in the right direction and I knew a few of the players coming to the RoadRunners as well”, he said. “I also felt the different culture in Santa Fe would be a great experience.” Hailed as a gifted playmaker, Kamrass exploded in Santa Fe with 19 goals and 34 assists, including a team-leading 25 power play points. The team posted the best record in franchise history, but stumbled in Game 5 of the South Division Semi-Finals against the Texas Tornado, who had rattled off three consecutive Robertson Cup championships. The teams’ on-ice success that year, however, did not translate into success at the Box Office and the franchise headed for greener pastures in Topeka, KS. For the third consecutive year of Kamrass’ Junior A career, he was in a different city. The move didn’t faze him; rather, it seemed to energize him. “I came into junior hockey looking forward to the ‘experience’ of it all. I got my fair share, I’d say”. It is from his time in Topeka that Josh recalls his greatest junior hockey memory. “As most Topeka fans will remember, it was Game 5 against Fairbanks to go to the Robertson Cup. The energy from the fans helped our team through that entire series. I will never forget winning that draw and watching Swank rip one past their goalie. Some players never get that experience in their career and I am fortunate to have had that with the amazing group of guys on that team.” Scott Langer said of Kamrass, “He is a naturally skilled player who sees the ice extremely well.” The stats certainly point to his playmaking ability, as he currently holds the franchise mark for career assists (79 reg. season + 15 in playoffs), he’s #1 in overall points including playoffs at 140, and he’s #2 in power play goals with 25 overall. His assault on the record books complete, Kamrass moved on to college, deciding to play for University of Wisconsin – River Falls. “College is more physical and a little bit faster. The players are a little older and a little bit bigger. You also have a lot fewer games so you really have to go as hard as you can.” After just one season at UWRF, he has elected to transfer to Curry College in Milton, MA. “River Falls was just not the experience and opportunity I was looking for so I decided to transfer to a school with a little bit different style that will better suit my style of play.”
The Second Annual RoadRunners Alumni Game is set for Sunday September 5 at 12:00 noon in Landon Arena. In the inaugural Alumni Game in September 2009, the Alumni won 1-0, with Randy Swank scoring the games only goal in the second period and Nick Hopper posting the shutout.