No Place Like Home


Hockey returned to Topeka, Kan., for the first time in two years last weekend in the form of the RoadRunners, and they didn’t disappoint the locals in attendance with a pair of wins over the Alaska Avalanche.

“For the fans in the building, they were happy to see a team that was hard-working, able to score goals and that plays with a bit of a chip on their shoulder,” said RoadRunners coach-GM Scott Langer. “The wins will go further for us in reaching the fans that weren’t at the game and missed out on the experience. Word is already spreading like wildfire.”

On Friday, Corey Jendras struck for two goals and an assist as the RoadRunners skated to a 5-1 victory. John Stoddard netted the game-winner, while goaltender Bryce Merriam turned aside 13 shots.

The next night, Topeka edged the Avs in a shootout, 3-2. Eric Artman and Jendras scored in regulation for the RoadRunners, and Merriam made 14 saves.

“There was clearly a sense of electricity in the air,” said Langer. “Fans seemed pretty well seasoned with chants, rituals and taunts. They arrived early, bought up piles of merchandise and were extremely vocal in their support.”

The RoadRunners drew over 1,700 in attendance on opening night and more than 1,300 on Saturday. Night and day from their dismal 392 average last season in Santa Fe.

“We're fortunate that a lot of fans here in Topeka have already been exposed to hockey, so what was most important for us was to be able to show what a high level of hockey the NAHL has to offer and to banish the misconception that since the players aren't pro, they must somehow be inferior.”

Mission accomplished, as the RoadRunners, who opened the season with a 2-1-1 record at the NAHL Showcase Tournament, settled into their new and – at times – intimidating surroundings in short time.

“Some of the players had never played in front of a crowd that size, and some of the veterans were in awe of the amount of support,” said Langer. “Nerves may have been a factor early in the game on opening night, but that quickly converted into energy.”

Jendras couldn’t have asked for a better start to his second NAHL season. The 20-year-old from Abingdon, Md., already has seven goals for 12 points in his first six games.

“Corey is natural goal-scorer,” said Langer. “He has truly developed into a big-time scoring threat.”

It hasn’t taken long for Artman, a first-year defenseman, to earn the praise and respect from his teammates (“He’s playing like a veteran,” according to Langer), while skilled, puck-handing forward Reed Seckel has also shown a penchant for playing the body.

First-year forward Matt Hartmann and veteran frontman Joe Harren have also impressed in the early goings for Topeka.

“The team has a tremendous work ethic and we’ve been getting contributions from both the veterans and the rookies,” said Langer.

Encouraged with the start of their season, both on the ice and at the gate, the RoadRunners are excited with the prospects of what’s to come.

“The players are our greatest asset,” said Langer. “The more we keep them in the eyes of the public, the better success we’ll have from a marketing standpoint.

“On the ice, we need to continue to work hard in practice and execute during the games.”

NORTH PLAYER OF THE WEEK
In only his third NAHL start, Mahoning Valley goaltender Garrett Bartus made all 44 saves as the Phantoms blanked the U.S. Under-18 Team on Saturday, 1-0. The St. Charles, Ill., native, who turns 18 this month, improved to 2-0 on the season with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.

“It’s really good to see Garrett play with the confidence that he did,” said Phantoms coach-GM Bob Mainhardt. “He was outstanding, and there’s no doubt that he was the biggest reason we won that game.”

HONORABLE MENTION: Marquette forward Josh Bussell

SOUTH PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Fairbanks goaltender Cody Reichard backstopped the Ice Dogs to a pair of wins last weekend over Bismarck, turning aside 47 of 50 shots. On Friday, the 20-year-old made 17 saves as the Ice Dogs skated to a 7-1 victory. The next night, the Celina, Ohio, native stopped 30 shots in Fairbanks’ 3-2 triumph over the Bobcats.

“He’s been outstanding for us so far this season,” said Ice Dogs assistant coach Josh Hauge. “He gives us a chance to win every night and that’s all you can ask from your goaltender.”

HONORABLE MENTION: Alaska forward Kyle Pichler; Topeka forward Corey Jendras; Wichita Falls forward Adam Cardwell

CENTRAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
North Iowa forward Bryant Skarda registered four goals and two assists last weekend as the Outlaws skated to two wins over Kenai River. On Friday, the 20-year-old notched two goals, including the game-winner, in a 6-1 victory. The next night, Skarda, an Army recruit from Lake Elmo, Minn., tallied two more markers and two assists as North Iowa upended the Brown Bears, 5-1.

“I thought Bryant had a real solid weekend. He stepped up and scored a couple of big goals,” said Outlaws coach Dave Boitz. “He showed why he’s a Division I player with his speed and skill and the way he produced those points.”

HONORABLE MENTION: Fargo-Moorhead goaltender Elliot Okland; Southern Minnesota forward Dustin Skinner

STANDINGS/LEADERS
North Division
TEAM GP W-L-OTL PTS PCT GF GA
USNTDP 10 6-3-1 13 .650 36 24
St. Louis 6 5-1-0 10 .833 28 18
Traverse City 6 3-0-3 9 .750 18 13
Marquette 6 4-2-0 8 .667 24 20
Mahoning Valley 6 4-2-0 8 .667 17 20
Alpena 6 3-2-1 7 .583 23 22

South Division
TEAM GP W-L-OTL PTS PCT GF GA
Fairbanks 8 6-2-0 12 .750 26 19
Wichita Falls 6 4-1-1 9 .750 24 14
Topeka 6 4-1-1 9 .750 18 14
Texas 6 3-3-0 6 .500 21 16
Alaska 7 1-5-1 3 .214 14 37
Kenai River 9 1-8-0 2 .111 20 45

Central Division TEAM GP W-L-OTL PTS PCT GF GA
Springfield 6 4-1-1 9 .750 27 15
North Iowa 6 4-1-1 9 .750 21 11
Fargo-Moorhead 6 4-2-0 8 .667 24 16
So. Minnesota 6 2-2-2 6 .500 18 22
Alexandria 6 1-5-0 2 .167 14 25
Bismarck 6 0-5-1 1 .083 9 31

LEADING SCORERS
PLAYER TEAM P GP G A PTS
Cardwell, Adam WIC F 6 5 9 14
Jendras, Corey TPK F 6 7 5 12
Everett, Grant WIC F 6 2 10 12
McCabe, Andrew FBX F 8 1 11 12
Salazar, Luke WIC F 6 6 5 11
Kamrass, Josh TPK F 6 2 9 11
Bussell, Josh MAR F 6 4 5 9
Graham, Derek MVY F 6 4 5 9
Warda, Ben STL F 6 3 6 9
Walters, Shea NIO F 6 3 6 9
Mihulka, Marc FMH F 6 1 8 9

LEADING GOALTENDERS
PLAYER TEAM GPI MINS W-L-OTL GAA SPCT
Maricic, Nick USA 3 178:47 2-1-0 0.67 .975
Cannata, Joe USA 2 126:40 1-0-1 1.42 .939
Moss, Robby NIO 4 246:52 3-0-1 1.46 .942
Stephenson, Brandon TNS 3 189:11 1-0-2 1.59 .944
Jarboe, Mike WIC 5 305:00 3-1-1 1.97 .904

GOALS
PLAYER TEAM P GP G
Jendras, Corey TPK F 6 7
Salazar, Luke WIC F 6 6
Simson, Nick KRB F 9 6

ASSISTS
PLAYER TEAM POS GP A
McCabe, Andrew FBX F 8 11
Everett, Grant WIC F 6 10
Cardwell, Adam WIC F 6 9
Kamrass, Josh TPK F 6 9

LAST WEEK'S SCORES/HIGHLIGHTS
Friday, September 28
Traverse City 3 @ Alpena 4 (OT) (ALP: Viau, GWG)
Fairbanks 7 @ Bismarck 1 (FBX: McCabe, 3A, +2)
Alexandria 2 @ Fargo-Moorhead 4 (FM: Harrison, GWG, A, +1)
USNTDP 5 @ Marquette 3 (USA: Palmieri, G, A, +1)
Kenai River 1 @ North Iowa 6 (NI: Skarda, G, GWG, +1)
Southern Minnesota 5 @ Springfield 2 (SM: Skinner, G, GWG, +1)
Wichita Falls 4 @ Texas 0 (WIC: Jarboe, 26 saves)
Alaska 1 @ Topeka 5 (TPK: Jendras, 2G, A, +2)
Mahoning Valley 2 @ USNTDP 7 (USA: Lorenz, GWG, +2)

Saturday, September 29
Fairbanks 3 @ Bismarck 2 (FBX: Miller, GWG, +1)
Alexandria 1 @ Fargo-Moorhead 5 (FM: Okland, 54 saves)
USNTDP 4 @ Marquette 6 (MAR: Bussell, G, GWG, A, +1)
Kenai River 1 @ North Iowa 5 (NI: Skarda, 2G, 2A, +1)
Southern Minnesota 4 @ Springfield 3 (SO) (SM: Lipinski, G, A)
Alaska 2 @ Topeka 3 (SO) (TPK: Kamrass, SOG, A)
Alpena 2 @ Traverse City 3 (OT) (TC: Hughes, G, GWG, A)
Mahoning Valley 1 @ USNTDP 0 (MV: Bartus, 44 saves)
Texas 5 @ Wichita Falls 1 (TEX: Bullis, 3A)

AROUND THE NAHL
BUSSELL BREAKS THROUGH: Marquette forward Josh Bussell, 18, posted two goals and two assists in two games against the U.S. Under-17 team last weekend, including a three-point effort in the Rangers’ 6-4 win on Saturday. “It was great to get that type of contribution from a first-year player this early in the year,” said Marquette coach Randy Enders.

PICHLER IMPRESSES: Despite two losses at the hands of Topeka, Alaska forward Kyle Pichler, 18, contributed offensively to the tune of one goal and one assist against the RoadRunners. “Kyle comes prepared mentally and physically ready to play every weekend,” said Avalanche coach-GM Jamie Smith.

UP AND ADAM: NAHL Showcase Tournament MVP Adam Cardwell, 20, continued his hot offensive hand for Wichita Falls last weekend, scoring two goals and an assist as the Wildcats split two games with Texas. The third-year forward leads the NAHL in scoring with 14 points (five goals).

SKINNER TO WINNER: Southern Minnesota celebrated two victories against NAHL Showcase Tournament champion Springfield, thanks in part to a three-goal weekend from forward Dustin Skinner. The 19-year-old notched the game-winner in the Express’ 5-2 triumph on Friday.

OKLAND WEATHERS BLIZZARD: Fargo-Moorhead goaltender Elliot Okland, who turns 20 next week, backstopped the Jets to a pair of victories over Alexandria last weekend, stopping 98 of 101 shots. The Fargo native made 54 saves in the Jets’ 5-1 win over the Blizzard on Saturday.

MARQUETTE FACES OFF AGAIST CANCER: The Rangers have partnered with Marquette General Hospital and the Marquette General Foundation on a fundraiser to benefit the Marquette General Cancer Center. The effort will culminate on Oct. 25 with a “Paint the Place Pink” home game at Lakeview Arena, when the Rangers will wear customized pink jerseys that will be auctioned off after the game.

STAR STRUCK: Traverse City forward Matt Hughes, 19, scored two goals, including the OT game-winner, and an assist in the North Stars’ 3-2 win over Alpena on Saturday.

THE WEEK AHEAD
Friday, October 5
Marquette @ Alpena, 7:00 pm
Kenai River @ Bismarck, 7:05 pm
Springfield @ Fargo-Moorhead, 7:35 pm
Fairbanks @ North Iowa, 7:30 pm
Texas @ St. Louis, 7:15 pm
Traverse City @ USNTDP, 7:30 pm
Topeka @ Wichita Falls, 7:00 pm

Saturday, October 6
Mahoning Valley @ Alpena, 7:00 pm
Kenai River @ Bismarck, 7:05 pm
Springfield @ Fargo-Moorhead, 7:05 pm
Fairbanks @ North Iowa, 7:30 pm
Alaska @ Southern Minnesota, 7:00 pm
Texas @ St. Louis, 7:15 pm
Marquette @ Traverse City, 7:05 pm
Topeka @ Wichita Falls, 7:00 pm

Sunday, October 7
Mahoning Valley @ Alpena, 5:00 pm
Alaska @ Southern Minnesota, 5:00 pm
Marquette @ Traverse City, 1:00 pm


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