In numerous ways, the 2010-11 season for the Topeka RoadRunners was an extremely successful one. Although the team fell short in their bid for their first ever Robertson Cup, there were numerous milestones and achievements along the way. The team fought through a number of challenges to win their third NAHL South Division title in four seasons and also achieved their preseason goal of winning the President’s Trophy for the best record in the entire league in the regular season. A team record nine players made Division I college commitments during the season, as Topeka has become renowned for finding and developing young talent.
The 2011-12 season will be the ‘Runners fifth in Topeka, with owners Don and Barbara Stone bringing stability to the franchise that had relocated twice prior to their purchase. After one year as the Lone Star Cavalry in North Richland Hills, TX and three years in Santa Fe, NM, the RoadRunners have settled nicely into their new home. The NAHL has expanded the regular season this year to 60 games, meaning 28 home games will be played at the spacious Kansas Expocentre.
It’s been said that one thing that is always constant is change. That is readily apparent in junior hockey, as players “age out” at 21, or in some cases move on to college early or choose to play in a different league. For Topeka, after a record setting season in 2010-11, they will lose 3 of their top 5 scorers to age, and the other two have been selected in the USHL Draft. In fact, only three of the top 10 scorers from last season are eligible to return. While the ‘Runners have signed several players to tenders (committing their rights to Topeka) and selected a few more in the NAHL Entry Draft, the primary method for evaluating and identifying potential RoadRunners is through the two tryout camps the team holds in the summer. “Every player has to earn their spot, there are no free passes”, said RoadRunner Head Coach / GM Scott Langer. “We have a high standard here, and we’ve worked hard to establish a culture based on hard work and family. It takes a special type of individual to wear our uniform, and we will stick to those ideals.”
The RoadRunners held their first tryout camp in Somerset, WI in mid-June, and will have their second and final open tryout in Chicago in mid-July. Langer, the NAHL Coach of The Year who is entering his eighth season behind the ‘Runners bench is optimistic about the upcoming campaign. “Our ownership is committed to giving the coaches and players all the tools we need to be successful, both on and off the ice. I’m looking forward to seeing the talent at our Chicago camp as we look for the final pieces to the puzzle.”
The NAHL expanded once again, now to 28 teams, and also saw two franchises relocate. Now with five divisions, there was speculation as to where Topeka would land with the realignment. The RoadRunners will remain in the NAHL’s largest division, the South Division along with Texas, Wichita Falls, Corpus Christi, Amarillo, New Mexico, and new member Odessa (relocated from Owatonna, MN). The season will culminate with the Robertson Cup Tournament, this season hosted by the Texas Tornado in Frisco, TX at the Dr. Pepper Star Center in May 2012.