Runners ready for South finale

Topeka RoadRunners coach Scott Langer knows a big and passionate home crowd for the deciding game of NAHL South Division finals could make the difference.

 

In fact, he is counting on it.

“We’ve thrived on our local support,” Langer said. “We like to please our community, and the community has done a great job of supporting us. In the playoffs our attendance hasn’t been the greatest, but with this one here, there’s a lot on the line. To win the South Division and move into the Robertson Cup as the top seed is extremely important.

“It’s Topeka’s time, it really is. These guys play their hearts out, and they do it with the support behind them and they do it for the support. I’m just hoping that we can fill the seats and do it together.”

The RoadRunners will be aiming for their second South Division postseason championship in franchise history when they host the Amarillo Bulls at 7:05 tonight in Landon Arena. To help with Langers request, the RoadRunners are selling two premium seat tickets for $14.75, the regular price of one.

Langer said the RoadRunners won’t be making any drastic changes.

“There’s no reason to change our approach at all,” he said. “We’ve gotten through quite a bit of the same stuff. We had a Game 5 against Wichita Falls and we passed through that. We had our backs against the wall to win the President’s Cup (regular-season championship) trophy. Here we are again. We’re going to stick to what we’re good at, and we’re not going to change much.”

The RoadRunners went to overtime to win both Games 1 and 3 of series, using sudden-death goals by Nate Milam and Jordan Davis.

Amarillo won Game 2 thanks to a furious rally in which it scored four goals in a three-minute span for a 4-3 victory. The Bulls then won 4-2 Friday night in Game 4 to force a fifth game.

The RoadRunners put up 48 shots in Game 4 but were stymied by Amarillo goalie Nikifor Szczerba, despite having some quality chances.

“We just have to be a little more eager on the puck,” Langer said. “We had some odd-man rush opportunities (in Amarillo) that we didn’t capitalize on, including a 2-on-0. We just have to keep our focus on putting the puck in the back on the net. We know we can score goals, we’ve done it all season. We just have to work a little harder to get that second chance.”

Langer said staying poised will be crucial for his squad.

“You got to control your emotional state,” Langer said. “We know that (the Bulls) are going to get theirs. You just can’t get too high, can’t get too low. It’s how we’ve won games all years, not getting too overexcited whether you’re up or down.”

The RoadRunners have struggled on the power play, converting just 4 of 25 attempts in the series. Amarillo has gone 4 of 18 on the man advantage.

Nate Milam has led Topeka offensively in the playoffs with seven goals and five assists. Zack Smoot has paced the Bulls with five goals and five assists.

Topeka goalie Rasmus Tirronen has started all four games of the series, stopping 105 of 117 shots. Szczerba has turned aside 140 of 151 shots.

After tonight’s game, the RoadRunners will shift their focus to the Robertson Cup, which begins May 3 at Landon Arena.

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