Runners open playoffs Saturday

Topeka's Bob Marx (22), shown here colliding with St. Louis' Craig Kitto (14), is one of several RoadRunners who gained valuable post-season playoff experience last year.

The Wichita Falls Wildcats don’t seem to be dwelling a whole lot on their recent history with the Topeka RoadRunners.

 

That’s just as well, because the RoadRunners are throwing the past out the window, too.

Topeka has won 15 straight games over Wichita Falls and is 7-0 against the Wildcats this season.

However, RoadRunners coach Scott Langer isn’t expecting his team’s recent domination of Wichita Falls to do the Runners any favors when the North American Hockey League’s South Division semifinals begin at 7:05 Saturday night in Landon Arena.

“It’s a whole new season,” Langer said. “If they win one here it changes the whole complexion of the season. They’re a good hockey team that’s been playing well down the stretch. They’re a confident group, based on what they’re saying out of their camp.

“It’s about execution. Being 7-0 means absolutely nothing. Anything can happen in playoffs.”

Langer said the RoadRunners, who will host the second game of the best-of-five series at 6:05 p.m. Sunday, are continuing to be fed extra motivation from around the league, stemming from some chatter on blogs, message boards and radio interviews.

“Obviously, there’s been some comments made about us not having a lot of success in the playoffs, which isn’t really that true,” said Langer, who has led the RoadRunners to four playoff series victories and guided the team to the Robertson Cup Tournament in 2008.

Langer reiterated that the Runners won’t be looking ahead to the Robertson Cup, which Topeka will host May 2-8.

“This is about winning the division and adding another title,” he said. “We don’t want any free rides just ‘cause we’re the host. We don’t need any time off. We’re going at this thing.”

Despite going winless against the RoadRunners, Wichita Falls (26-27-5) played Topeka tough late in the season. The Runners had to rally from a two-goal deficit at home in a 4-3 win over the Wildcats on March 4, and they trailed in the third period a week later at Wichita Falls before scratching out a 4-2 victory.

The RoadRunners will be missing some significant firepower with Topeka star forward Michael Hill ruled out for the postseason with a concussion. Future Division I players Justin Hussar, Brian Christie and Nate Milam will help try to fill the void. Hussar was tied for the team lead in points during the regular season with 66, while Brian Christie registered 57 and Nate Milam 52.

Hussar leads the Runners in goals with 37, while Wichita Falls forward Dakota Klecha has scored a team-high 28 goals for the Wildcats.

Wichita Falls will host the third game and the fourth game, if necessary, April 8-9. The RoadRunners will host a potential fifth game April 11.

The RoadRunners are encouraging fans to wear white for Saturday’s “Whiteout” game.

 

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