The Topeka RoadRunners will have a great chance to enter the holiday break feeling good about themselves.
After taking three of four games on the road against division-leading opponents, the Runners will look to continue the momentum when they host the New Mexico Mustangs at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Landon Arena.
"We're absolutely heading in the right direction," RoadRunners coach Scott Langer said. "A lot of guys are playing good hockey right now. To take six out of eight points from two first-place teams is certainly good.
"(But) we are getting depleted here toward the weekend, so we're going have to figure out a way to manage the lineup. If we can get a few points here at home, I think it's been a successful first half."
The Runners (17-7-2) are coming off a pair of hard-fought wins on the road against Texas. The Runners picked up a 3-2 overtime victory Friday night on the strength of Michael Hill's hat trick. Topeka then scored five goals in the third period of Saturday night's game to earn a come-from-behind 6-4 win and complete the sweep of the Tornado.
"It was great to see our guys stay patient. They didn't panic whatsoever," Langer said. "That was kind of like our team of the past — you'd be down a few goals and it still felt like you were going to win the hockey game. I think that's a sign of our team maturing."
After heavily relying on Hill for scoring production for much of the early part of the season, Langer said he has been pleased with the offensive balance the Runners have displayed recently.
"(Brian) Christie, (Andrew) O'Leary and (Nate) Milam have done a great job with the secondary scoring, and Jordan Davis, (Kyle) Sharkey and (Daniel) Dupell have played a great part in our success with their checking ability," he said. "And Mike Hill's performance speaks for itself. Everybody's going after him and he just seems to fill the net.
"Right now things are good, we're rolling. We have a little confidence and we just want to get to this break and try to get a couple of wins at home."
New Mexico is 8-18-3 on the season and 0-9-3 in road games, but Langer said he considers the Mustangs a dangerous team.
"They might not have a great record right now, but they play real hard," Langer said. "Those teams will catch up on you real quick if you're not focused."
Teddy Bear Toss on Saturday
Saturday night's game will feature the "Country Legends Cares Teddy Bear Toss."
Fans are encouraged to bring stuffed animals to donate to the Topeka Rescue Mission. When the RoadRunners score their first goal, the fans will be instructed to throw the animals out on the ice. The animals will then be gathered up by RoadRunners players and staff for donation.
RoadRunners' account executive Tiffany Logue said the team is looking for a huge turnout.
"The Topeka RoadRunners have been working really hard this year to even further our efforts in the community and we are really looking for the support so that we can show everyone how thankful we are to be in this community," she said. "It's going to be a great weekend. We want everyone to bring their family out and come support the Rescue Mission."
Logue said free teddy bears will be given out to approximately the first 100 fans in attendance Saturday night.
On Friday night, the RoadRunners will be selling special teddy bears wearing bandannas autographed by the players.