24 Teams in 24 Days: Topeka RoadRunners
The ‘24 in 24’ series features an in-depth look into all 24 NAHL teams, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season on Saturday, September 8th.
‘24 in 24’ will go in-depth into each NAHL team and will include interview with all 24 NAHL head coaches as they prognosticate and break down their outlook for the upcoming season.
Many of the same accolades that were said about the Wenatchee Wild in yesterday’s 24 Teams in 24 Days can also be repeated about today’s team, the Topeka RoadRunners. Since moving to Topeka, Kansas in the summer of 2007, the RoadRunners have established themselves as one of the model franchises in the NAHL, and the numbers don’t lie.
On the ice, the RoadRunners have been the definition of a consistent winner and have done it all under the watch of Scott Langer, who will be entering his 9th straight season as head coach and general manager for the RoadRunners franchise. During Langer’s tenure, the RoadRunners have won the NAHL South Division Regular Season Title three times, made it to the Division Finals five times, and participated in the Robertson Cup Tournament twice. The RoadRunners have also made the Robertson Cup Playoffs in seven of eight years, including last season when they swept the eventual Robertson Cup Champion Texas Tornado in the South Semi-Finals, but eventually lost to the Amarillo Bulls in four games in the South Finals, falling just short of a return to the Robertson Cup Tournament.
The RoadRunners were again one of the league leaders in attendance, which highlights their continued their strong community support as for the third straight season they averaged over 2,100 fans per game. They also continued their tradition of player college commitments as seven players committed to NCAA Division I schools throughout the season.
All of it is a winning formula that Langer attributes largely because of the players. “I think is attributed to the type of players we have had over the years. They are guys with great work ethic who also hold themselves accountable and make the most of their time here,” said Langer. “I think it is a philosophy that starts at the top with our ownership and it trickles down to the staff and makes this a great organization to be a part of and an organization the community can be proud of.”
Despite the success, the ultimate goal of winning the Robertson Cup eluded the RoadRunners last season. “Last year was one of the toughest years I can remember because we had so many players injured throughout the season. said Langer. “We put a lot of players into NCAA schools and we managed to have another winning season and get to the South Finals, so when we combine that with the over 250+ man-games lost to injury, I feel pretty good about what the guys were able to accomplish.”
As for what may be the keys to success in 2012-13, Langer said that from the start of the season their focus will be on one primary thing, winning the Robertson Cup. “Leadership is key at this level and the veteran players have to demand a lot of themselves and them teammates. It is hard to win in the NAHL and to win a championship takes something special. Every day we come in to work and talk about how to win a championship. We also realize that the teams in this league and in our division are all very good, so we have to do that little something extra to realize that ultimate goal.”
Langer continued…“This year is the year we are going for it, so let there be no secrets about that. We are an eager group and we are tired of falling short,” said Langer. “I think we have been dominant in a lot of areas in the NAHL, but we don’t have a ring to show for it. We are about college scholarships, we are about opportunity, we are about moving players on, we are about community involvement, but we would certainly like to add the hardware here in Topeka at the end of this year.”
Entering the 2012-13 season, Langer sees a couple of big advantages to start the season. The first is his returning veteran players. “We have a great group of veteran leaders in guys like defensemen Kevin Patterson, Luke Veitch, Michal Pastor and Trace Strahle, while up front guys like Dan Dupell, Kyle Sharkey and Sean Gaffney will be relied upon heavily,” said Langer.
As for the other advantage, Langer feel like it lies within the friendly confines of their home ice at Landon Arena. “We really feel like we have a true hometown advantage when we play in Topeka and it is one of the unique and cool things about this level of hockey. You feel like the players really enjoy giving back to the fans and the fans really appreciate having a team here and show it with their support at the games.”
Next up in the NAHL 24 Teams in 24 Days series, the Robertson Cup Champion, Texas Tornado.