The 2015-16 Topeka RoadRunners have reported to Training Camp and are preparing for a weekend of preseason action in Aberdeen, SD before launching into the new season on Sept 11 in Landon Arena.
Last year's club finished 39-15-6, a mark identical to the prior season, good for second place in the always challenging NAHL South Division. Some thrilling comebacks in the playoffs made for a deep postseason run, but Topeka dropped a tough overtime decision to Lone Star in the Division Finals, ending the year for the RoadRunners.
The summer was a busy one as the team conducted open tryout camps in Somerset, WI in May and Woodridge, IL in July. Behind the scenes, team ownership worked tirelessly with Shawnee County officials in an attempt to bridge the gap in lease negotiations in order to keep the team at home in Topeka. The uncertainty cast a long shadow, however team staff and ownership successfully navigated the difficult waters, conducting business as usual to construct the team, and were ultimately able to secure a three-year lease to provide some peace of mind for players, staff, and most importantly, the fiercely loyal RoadRunner fan base.
The RoadRunners have 12 players from last year's squad who have reported to camp. On the blue line, defensemen Seth Kamrass,Jack Kelly, Ryan O'Connor and Tyler Hayes are back to help bolster one of the leagues historically stingiest defenses. Up front, forwards Yu Hikosaka, Beau Dommer, Matt Jennings, Carlos Fornaris, Dominic Lutz, Cam Strong, Luka Maver and JB Baker all are back and ready to go. With both of last season's goalies playing Division I college hockey this season, Topeka has reached back to the town of Bratislava, Slovakia for Vladimir Cibulka and have also brought in Tyler Johnson from Amherst, NY for netminding duties. Some other RoadRunner newcomers to watch include former high school teammates Max Harper and Marshall Bowery, and imports Jody Sick (Alberta, Canada) and Jiri Hozak(Czech Republic). The team has been assembled as a blend of size, speed, grit, and skill. In a division where there's no such thing as a night off, the RoadRunners organization feels confident with the players they've brought in to Topeka.
For the fourth consecutive season, the RoadRunners will meet the Aberdeen Wings from the NAHL's Central Division in a pair of preseason games. In 2012 the team split a pair of games at the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen, SD and the last two seasons saw the Wings fly south to Topeka. The 'Runners are 2-4-0 all-time in preseason games against the Wings. The two teams have met only once all time in the regular season, a 1-0 win for the Wings in the 2013 Showcase Tournament. They are not scheduled to meet this year at any point over the 60-game schedule. The preseason games are set for Friday Sept. 4 and Saturday Sept. 5 at 7:15 pm, and both games will be available to watch on FASTHockey.com.
The following weekend, the RoadRunners jump headfirst into the new season with a pair of games against the Wichita Falls Wildcats. Single game tickets are available now at the Kansas Expocentre Box Office, and group tickets are available through the RoadRunner Office. Follow the team all year long on Facebook, Twitter (@topekahockey), and online at topekaroadrunners.com
* Disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Arch Ecker, and not necessarily the views of JuniorHockey.com. JuniorHockey.com does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.