Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NAHL South Division Report; Topeka Building another strong contender

With the top 4 teams in the NAHL's South Division all log jammed and separated by just a single point heading into this weekends games. The Roadrunners have a chance to go on top with a tough weekend road trip to Amarillo against the Bulls where the Roadrunners are looking to continue a strong road- trip with 2 huge wins over the Wichita Falls Wildcats with 6-1 and 5-3 wins last weekend in Northwest Texas.

Now the Roadrunners will be looking to shake up one of the league's best goaltenders in Nikifor Szczerba who has been in net for all seven victories for the Bulls this season.

For the Roadrunners, they have been the team that haven't been able to finish off a strong regular season after having a strong season last year where they finished the season tied with Wenatchee for the best overall record at 44-9-5. After dominating Springfield in the first round, they ran into their arch rival St. Louis Bandits who after a back-and-fourth series that got it tied at 2-2 after four games. St. Louis dominated the 5th and final game of the series where the Bandits won 5-0 to win the series and the South Division for the 4th straight year.

Now with St. Louis going to the East Division, it will be fighting off teams like the Texas Tornado, Amarillo Bulls and the Wichita Falls Wildcats for the South Division Title this season.

Through 10 games this season, the Roadrunners are looking to get away from the Gridlock that has the top 4 teams separated by just 1 point. In addition to the Topeka VS. Amarillo Weekend Series, you have the Tornado heading west to play the New Mexico Mustangs, finally it's a single game weekend as the Wichita Falls Wildcats plays a single game set with the Corpus Christi Icerays this weekend.

Can Topeka find a way to take control of the division, or can Texas, Wichita Falls or Amarillo find a way to break away from the current pack.

Here's the Current Division Standings. Plus links to the team Stats for the NAHL South Division.

1. Wichita Falls        11 GP     7-2-2    16 PTS      41-33

2. Amarillo                11 GP     7-3-1    15 PTS      45-32

3. Topeka                   10 GP     7-2-1    15 PTS      33-22

4. Texas                      11 GP     6-2-3    15 PTS      41-37

5. Corpus Christi       11 GP     6-4-1    13 PTS      42-43

6. New Mexico            11 GP    4-5-2     10 PTS      29-47

Here's the Team Stats for each of the Teams

Amarillo Bulls

Corpus Christi Icerays

New Mexico Mustangs

Texas Tornado

Topeka Roadrunners

Wichita Falls Wildcats

Here's a look at the rest of the Divisions.

West Division, Consistency key to Avalanche Success

Central Division, Additions Bolster the Express Attack

North Division, Springfield Rebound after shaky Start

Here's the NAHL South Division Report from Zach Duncan

As host of the 2011 NAHL Robertson Cup, the Topeka Roadrunners have assured of participating in the NAHL's Championship Tournament.

However, Topeka Roadrunners Head Coach Scott Langer said his squad doesn't discuss that fact.

Instead, the Roadrunners have their sights set on defending their South Division Regular Season Title they captured last year.

"Every night it's going to be a difficult game," Langer said. "Every team that wins the South Division has to win 40 plus games to do it, and that's a lot of hockey games."

Through almost one-fifth season, only six points separate the first place Wildcats from the last Place New Mexico Mustangs.

The Roadrunners (7-2-1 15 PTS) are currently one point shy of the Wildcats thanks to a two game sweep in Wichita Falls over the weekend.

Those victories came on the heels of a disappointing home opener the weekend before, but Langer said spent Topeka last week refocusing.

"We had to replace a lot of guys like we have every year," said Langer. "We have only seven guys back, so it's a matter baby steps and growing pains. That's what were seeing right now."

Michael Hill, who bagged a hat trick in Friday's 6-3 win, has stepped up his game since becoming the team's captain. Hill has scored a team best 17 games, and his five power play goals are second in the NAHL.

Defensemen Jacob Poe is another veteran who turned down a scholarship offer to Alabama-Huntsville because he felt he had unfinished business with the Roadrunners, who were eliminated in last year's South Division Final.

"That shows a lot about his character," said Langer, who recorded his 250th win with the Roadrunners Saturday (Langer has been their coach since the organization arrived from Santa Fe in 2004).

A couple Junior A Newcomers - forwards Justin Hussar (8 Points) and Kevin Novakovich (3 Goals) - are playing well, but Langer's said his squad's strength so far this season has been in net.

Holdover Eric Rohrkemper and Finland Native Rasmus Tirronen have combined for a 2.20 GAA and a .915 SV%.

Rohrkemper played 20 games with Topeka last season before emerging as the team's number 1 goalie in the playoffs. That experience is paying dividends.

"Having to grow up so quickly against a team like the St. Louis Bandits is not easy to do," Langer said. "It's such a competitive situation right now. Those guys are fighting for minutes."

And the Roadrunners, who haven't finished lower then second in the three years since relocating to Kansas, will be fighting for a South Division title - even if a Robertson Cup Spot is not on the line.

South Division Notebook

Amarillo Bulls: Despite two losses to the Tornado, the Bulls are still averaging 4.09 Goals per game, second highest in the league behind Fairbanks. Forward T.J. Sarcona has registered an assist in each of the last five games.

Corpus Christi Icerays: With a pair of shootout victories against New Mexico, Corpus Christi has bumped its record to 4-0 in shootouts this season. Five of the Icerays 11 games have been tied at the end of regulation. No team has played more OT/SO Games in the NAHL.

New Mexico Mustangs: Goaltender Brian Jones got some revenge on Thursday Night against the Wildcats, who traded him before the October 1 Roster Cuts. Jones made 36 saves and stopped all but one shootout attempt in the Mustangs 3-2 victory. He's 1-1-2 with a 2.83 GAA and a .908 SV% since joining New Mexico.

Texas Tornado: Ralfs Freibergs has six assists over the weekend, including 5 in Saturday's 8-4 win over Amarillo. Freibergs 15 points are the most among NAHL Defensemen, he also heads the league in assists with 14 and power play assists (8). The Tornado are currently riding a four game winning streak.

Wichita Falls Wildcats: Mikhail Sentyurin's three game streak of scoring a goal ended in Saturday's loss to Topeka. Mattia Bortolotto picked up an assists Friday in his second game with the team after being acquired by the WHL's Prince George Cougars.

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