The Topeka RoadRunners season officially concluded Saturday night, wrapping up the twelfth year of the franchise and eighth season in Kansas. In spite of the disappointment in coming up short in the postseason, the ‘Runners have plenty of reason to call the 2014-15 season a success. Nine players from this year’s playoff roster have Division I college commitments, and another 2 alumni have commitments as well. Additionally, the team set a franchise record for home wins, going 23-3-2 in Landon Arena.
For the third time in the team’s history, they went a perfect 4-0-0 at the NAHL Showcase tournament in September. Goalie Matej Tomek (Bratislava, Slovakia) was the talk of the tournament as the NHL prospect posted consecutive shutouts at the event. The ‘Runners would win their first six games of the season, their best start since setting a record 7-0-0 in the 2008-09 season. After dropping a pair of road games in Wichita Falls, the ‘Runners then rattled off a 9-0-1 run to improve to 15-2-1. The team hit a rough patch, going 1-4-1 over a three week period leading up to Thanksgiving but then caught fire again, with another red hot 9-0-1 stretch into the New Year, sitting atop the NAHL South with a mark of 25-6-3 on January 1. The team’s record of 28-9-3 on the morning of Jan.18 was the best in the division, which earned Head Coach / GM Scott Langer the position of Head Coach at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament and allotted the ‘Runners five roster spots at the event. For Langer, it was the eighth consecutive Top Prospects event he’d earned the right to coach, and the fifth as Head Coach. The South Division became a three team scramble down the stretch, with the Lone Star Brahmas clinching the division on the final weekend, while Topeka clinched second place on the final day of the regular season. The RoadRunners have finished no worse than second place for nine years, winning the division in three of those years. And on March 21, with a 4-2 win over Amarillo, the RoadRunners helped the City of Topeka hit their 500th hockey win, encompassing the previous Tarantula and Scarecrow franchises that had previously called Landon Arena their home.
The RoadRunners shook off a harsh 7-0 defeat in Game 2 of the South Division Semifinals, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to win Game 3 and a 3-0 deficit to win Game 4 and the series against Wichita Falls. The resilient RoadRunners shook an early 1-0 deficit to beat Lone Star in Game 1 of the South Division Finals, and then battled out of a 4-0 hole in Game 2 to force OT but fell in the extra session, sending the series back to Topeka even at a game apiece. The script was flipped on the ‘Runners at home, as both Games 3 and 4 saw Topeka hold a 2-1 lead in the third, only to see Lone Star escape with 3-2 wins, the final one in overtime, clinching the series and ending the ‘Runners season.
The year saw a handful of milestones, as 5 RoadRunners played in their hundredth game, and Scott Langer posted career win #400 in his career. The team had a successful year off the ice as well, with numerous promotions and activities that introduced hockey to hundreds of new fans.
RoadRunner players who finished the season with the team and have Division I college commitments are Drew Vogler and Shawn Brennan (Merrimack College, Hockey East), Matej Tomek and Mike Gornall (University of North Dakota, NCHC), Will Scherer (Brown University, ECACHL), Carlos Fornaris (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, ECACHL), Daniel Brickley (Minnesota State University – Mankato, WCHA), Ryan Polin (American International College, Atlantic Hockey), and Jasen Fernsler (University of Alaska-Fairbanks, WCHA). RoadRunner alumni with commitments include Ted Rotenberger (University of Alabama-Huntsville, WCHA) and Avni Berisha (UMass-Lowell, Hockey East).
The RoadRunners have 15 players eligible age-wise to return next season, and the process of building the 2015-16 RoadRunners has been underway for some time now. There will be two open tryout camps over the summer and Coaches Langer and Kamrass work toward reloading for next year.
POTENTIAL RETURNERS FOR 2015-16
Listed alphabetically: JB Baker, Shawn Brennan, Beau Dommer, Tyler Hayes, Yu Hikosaka, Tyler Irvine, Matt Jennings, Seth Kamrass, Jack Kelly, Dominic Lutz, Luka Maver, Ryan O’Connor, Sam Rennaker, Cam Strong.