Runners eye increasing South lead

The Topeka RoadRunners have given themselves some breathing room atop the North American Hockey League’s South Division with some of their best hockey of the season.

 

The RoadRunners have ample opportunities to maintain their distance in the South as they continue their longest homestand of the season this weekend when they host the Springfield (Ill.) Jr. Blues. The series will start at 7:05 p.m. Saturday and continue at 5:05 p.m. Sunday in Landon Arena.

Topeka (27-8-2), which had a five-point lead in the South before Friday’s NAHL action, hopes build on an eight-game winning streak against Springfield.

“We just got to keep taking care of ourselves. We can’t afford to drop any points with how close it is in the division,” RoadRunners coach Scott Langer said. “It’s nice when someone does us a little favor, but we just got to keep it going.”

The RoadRunners, who are 11-4-1 at Landon Arena, began a seven-game homestand last weekend, earning a pair of victories against Wichita Falls.

New acquisition Davey Middleton gave the RoadRunners a lift in the sweep, notching two goals and an assist during the two games.

Middleton has three goals and three assists in four games with Topeka after scoring just two points in 17 games during his stint with the Tri-City Storm, of the United States Hockey League.

“He’s just a smart hockey player. He knows where to be,” Langer said of Middleton. “I think he was a little under utilized (in Tri-City). He’s just having fun right now. The weight’s off his shoulders and he’s getting a bigger role, and I think we’re getting to see him thrive off of that.”

While the RoadRunners have been climbing the South ladder, the Springfield Jr. Blues (17-18-3) have been sliding downhill in the North. After losing six consecutive games, Springfield fired coach Andy Maher on Wednesday. Joe Dibble will serve as interim coach of the Jr. Blues for the remainder of the season.

“The team will have to put distractions aside and play hockey, and that will be tough because of their relationship with Andy,” Dibble told The (Springfield) State Journal-Register.

Michael Hill, who returned to the lineup last week following a suspension, leads the RoadRunners with 43 points, while Justin Hussar has contributed 41. Ethan Nauman comes into the series with 41 points for the Jr. Blues.

 

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