After a regular season where the Texas Tornado struggled to a 3-8-1 record against the Topeka Roadrunners, the two teams are locked in a first round playoff battle. However, those struggles were the regular season and this is the playoffs. Last weekend the Tornado went into Landon Arena in Topeka and took the wins Saturday and Sunday in their best of five series by identical 2-1 scores. The series now moves back to Frisco, Texas and the Dr. Pepper Arena with the Tornado needing to win only one of the next three games to advance to the NAHL South Division Finals against the Amarillo Bulls. The Bulls advanced by dispatching the Corpus Christi Iceraysin four games.
In the two games in Topeka, Tornado goal tender Hunter Leisner has resembled the goalie who led Texas to the Robertson Cup National Championship last season. Leisner is 2-0-0 with a 1.00GAA and .967SV%. The play of the blueliners has been equally impressive with defensemen clearing rebounds to the boards and giving up the body to block shots. Texas has been outshot in both games, but second chance opportunities have been few and far between. Offensively the Tornado have been led by CJ Reuschlein (2G-0A) who has goals in both contests. Joining Reuschlein with two points each are Max Shuart (1G-1A) and Jason Eddy (0G-2A). The other Tornado to register points in Topeka are Scott Conway (1G-0A) and Alexey Soloviev (0G-1A).
Kyle Sharkey (1G-1A) and Tyler Andrew (1G-1A) are the multi point scorers for the Roadrunners while Kevin Patterson and Sean Gaffney have each contributed an assist. Roadrunners goaltender Spencer Viele must be feeling snake bit against the Tornado in the post season. In four games including last season’s Robertson Cup Tournament games when he backstopped the St Louis Bandits, Viele has a 2.43GAA and a .910SV% against Texas. However, Viele has only a single overtime win and suffered an overtime defeat in the National Championship Final when Justin Greenberg put a rebound in the back of the net.
Special teams play has been as tight as the scores in this series with Topeka converting on one of six power play opportunities while the Tornado are scoreless in seven power plays.
The Texas Tornado will definitely have the advantage returning home knowing they need only one win in the next three games. Behind the bench they have the winningest coach in NAHL history in Tony Curtale. Curtale has a total of seven Robertson Cup Championships on his resume, five with the Tornado during their 12 years in the league. Seven players on the Tornado roster have a ring from last season’s Robertson Cup National Championship team so they have big game experience.
The Roadrunners on the other hand will come into Frisco with their backs against the wall. Topeka has been close several times recently and came up just short. Topeka won the South Division in 2009/10 and made it to the Division Finals only to lose to St Louis in five games. After winning the regular season crown in 2010/11 the Roadrunners made it into the Robertson Cup Tournament, but lost all three games. Last season Topeka once again made it as far as the Divisional Finals before losing to Amarillo in four games. While Topeka has a talented team they will have to exercise the ghosts of past playoffs and resurrect their regular season play against Texas if they stand a chance of facing Amarillo.