23 in 23 Series: Topeka RoadRunners
September 12, 2017
The 23 in 23 series features a look at all 23 teams in the NAHL for the 2017-18 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 23 in 23 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 23 coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: Josh Kamrass (3rd year)
2016-17 record: 21-34-5, 47 pts. (7th in the South Division)
2016-17 leading scorer: Max Harper (41 points)
2017 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2017-18 Division: South
First regular season game: Friday, September 15th vs. Corpus Christi IceRays
Home opener: Friday, September 15th vs. Corpus Christi IceRays
Last year was a tough year for the Topeka RoadRunners and a bit of an anomaly. Last season marked the first time since the team’s move to Topeka from Sante Fe and the first time since the 2005-06 season that the franchise did not make the playoffs. The 21 wins were also a franchise low for a single season.
The RoadRunners struggled to score, ranking 20th out of 24 teams in goals for at 2.93 per game last season, but more importantly, the RoadRunners struggled even more defensively, allowing 3.80 goals per game, which ranked 22 out of 24 NAHL teams.
“Admittedly, there were a lot of bumps of in the road last season,” said RoadRunners head coach Josh Kamrass. “We did a good job of moving players on during the season, but it was a challenge with all of the scoring and leadership we lost from the season prior. I was proud of the guys because they maintained their competitiveness and were persistent until the very end. We never quit and that is a great learning experience for the players and me as a coach.”
In total, Topeka saw 11 players from the 2016-17 team make an NCAA commitment during the season. That included the team’s top two scorers Max Harper and Marshall Bowery both making an NCAA Division I commitment to Air Force. It marked the third straight season that the RoadRunners have had at least 10 NCAA commitments.
“Once players understand what the coaches and owners from the NAHL put into this, they understand why the NAHL is such a good league for development and NCAA commitments. We are working year round for them to make that dream a reality. It is a great league to be a part of. There is a tremendous period going on right now, so the time has never been better to be a player in the NAHL. I think it gives everyone involves a lot of excitement and optimism on the new heights we can accomplish,” said Kamrass.
Entering the 2017-18 season, Kamrass and the RoadRunners are excited about who they have on the roster to begin the season. “Our scouts did a great job at identifying not only the quality of player we are looking for, but also the kind of person we are looking for. We have the guys that fit well into our system and have the work ethic that will make us a better team in 2017-18,” said Kamrass. “The guys will learn pretty quick that we have a team-first mentality. It isn’t about one player, it is about how they interact and can help their teammates.”
Kamrass said that the goals for the 2017-18 season all start with getting back to winning. “We haven’t had a season like last year in a long time and it was a first for us being in Topeka, so the first thing we have to do is get back to winning. Then it is all about making the playoffs and having success in order to make a run for the Robertson Cup,” said Kamrass. “That is the goal for every team and we are no different. We also want to move our players onto the NCAA and make them better players and better people.”
The 2017-18 roster for the RoadRunners is going to be very different from the season before. The top returning forward is Will Schlagenhauf (31 points). Other veterans who are on the roster forwards Nick Granowicz (24 points) and Nigel Nelson (12 points), along with defensemen Jake Rosenbaum (27 points), Devon Fields (13 points) and Ryan Dickinson (12 points).
The RoadRunners will start the season with new faces between the pipes, who include NAPHL alum Cole Weaver, who spent last season playing junior hockey in Canada, Sam Metcalf from the Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets 18U team and Emil Gransoe, a Swiss-born goaltender, who played in three games for the RoadRunners last season.
Next up in the 23 in 23 series: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights