By Arch Ecker, Topeka RoadRunners
The Topeka RoadRunners of the North American Hockey League are proud to announce veteran defenseman Kevin Patterson has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey next season for the Niagara University Purple Eagles.
Patterson, the 6’0” 190 lb native of Colorado Springs, CO, got his start on the ice at a young age. “By the time I was 4, I’d fallen in love with the sport,” he recalls. Growing up, Kevin watched Colorado College games and dreamed of playing college hockey. “My Dad was a three-sport athlete (including hockey) and my grandpa, Harley Patterson, won a championship at Colorado College in 1957 and I have several uncles that played. Hockey just runs in the family.”
Eventually, his playing career took him to the Colorado Rampage program where he connected with head coach Andrew Sherman. “I was very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to play for Coach Sherman and he helped lead me to Topeka. Coach Sherman always preached, ‘Stick to the process and bring your lunch pail to the rink every day,’ and I have taken that to heart ever since.” Patterson’s initial visit to Topeka was all he needed. ”I got the invited to come on a visit to Topeka in December of 2010 by Coach (Scott) Langer and the staff. I was able to see the daily operations and the culture of the RoadRunner organization. That, along with the proven track record that Topeka had in regards to success as a team and the great alumni, made it an easy decision when Coach Langer offered me a tender.”
Upon his arrival in Topeka, Patterson found himself welcomed and comfortable. “From day one, Smacks (Scott Langer’s nickname) has always been about the values of family and there wasn't a day that went by that I didn't feel like I was one of his family members,” he stated. “I noticed it even more during my last year having had so many conversations with him. The amount he cares for each one of his players is very rare in a junior hockey coach. He demonstrated to me that through thick and thin he will fight and go to bat for anyone of his family members.” Kevin added, “Smacks has not only taught me more about the game of hockey but instilled in me values that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Langer was equally effusive in his praise for Patterson. “His leadership, work ethic, and character are what set him apart. Day in and day out, he is one of the most prepared players on the ice,” he remarked. “He’s been a two-year warrior here, a true RoadRunner. He will be a very solid college athlete.” It was that leadership that led Langer to name him as an alternate captain in his second season. “To be given the opportunity to be tagged as a leader of such a great organization like the Topeka RoadRunners was an honor and a privilege. I felt very humbled and blessed to be a part of the leadership because it assured me that I had established a personality with the Roadrunners as being looked up to. I was told from a young age to step out and be a leader, to lay down a path that others would want to follow and I can only hope that this year I laid down a path sturdy enough for not only players this past year to follow but for Runners in years to come.”
Patterson was also selected to participate in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in February. He’d been told Niagara University had seen him play and were interested. “I put in some research online and felt that Niagara had the academics that I could excel with and I felt the established culture of their hockey program was in line with my own.” Patterson added, “I sent an e-mail to the coaching staff notifying them of my high interest level in their program. I received a call from Coach Madsen in March and that was my first contact I had with Niagara. Then this week he gave me another call and told me they need another defenseman and I'm their guy.” His major is not decided, though he certainly has his fields of interest. “At the present moment I believe my course of study will either be Sports Management where I can be involved in making high-end decisions with sports teams or represent players in negotiations with contracts. On the other hand, I am also interested in Biology where I can use that to become a physical therapist.”
Looking back on his time in Topeka, there are a lot of memories. “If I had to narrow it to a favorite one it would be Game 3 of the South Division finals of 2012. The atmosphere in Landon arena paired with the importance of the game gave me goose bumps and I was ecstatic that I was a part of it. The fans have always been great and on that special night I felt honored to play in front of them.”
Reflecting back on his experience, Kevin found much to be grateful for. “I want to thank the Lord in blessing me with the talents I have to play hockey. My faith has been tested a lot through two years. However, through each trial it has been strengthened and God showed me the path He had for in store for me through His perfect timing. I would like to thank my family in all that they have done and the love I have been smothered by. I would like to thank the entire RoadRunner management and staff for giving me this opportunity to pursue my hockey career in a place that many wish to be. Coach Langer for going to bat for me more times than I probably know as well as dedicating himself to making me, along with every guy on the team, a better hockey player and man each day. I want to thank Coach Sherman for showing me how to conduct myself and be a young man dedicated to the team. Along with Coach (Josh) Kamrass, I want to thank Coach (John) Becanic for the time they put into our team this year to make us all smarter and more accountable hockey players. I want to thank my billet families, the Arnolds and Riggins, for graciously opening their homes to me and providing an environment I could thrive in. I will cherish our relationships and be grateful for everything they have done on my behalf. Also, thank you to Journey Church who welcomed me into their church family and who kept me grounded on the foundation of my faith. To the RoadRunner fans, I am very thankful for the support that was shown to me and the team. And last but not least, all my teammates throughout the years with whom I have laughed, cried and battled in practice every day to make me the competitor and player that I have become.”
His sporting family includes older sister Lauren (“The Golden Child”), an All-American soccer player at Wright State University, and younger sister Hayley (“The Secret Weapon”), a high school soccer player who is committed to Azusa Pacific in the fall. “My family is my support system, biggest fans and most importantly my backbone. The amount of support and love they have shown me over the course of the last 2 years while in Topeka has been insurmountable. They were there with me through the ups and downs, and consistent with their love and support no matter what. It's funny how you take family for granted a little bit while living at home. As soon as I moved away, I realized what an amazing family I have and I couldn't have done any of this without them.” Now Patterson has a new name: “The Purple Eagle.”
Patterson is the second RoadRunner to play for Niagara, following Kevin Ryan who will be a senior next year. The Purple Eagles compete in the Atlantic Hockey Association, and play in the 2,100 seat Dwyer Arena in Lewiston, NY.