After opening the season with five home games sandwiched around a trip to Minnesota for the North American Hockey League Showcase, the Amarillo Bulls head to Topeka this weekend for their first true road games of the season.
Last season the Bulls and Roadrunners met eight times, with the Bulls winning six of those games, including going 3-1 in Topeka. This weekend’s games are set for Friday and Saturday, both at 7 p.m.
The Bulls are looking to rebound after a sweep at the hands of the Corpus Christi Ice Rays last weekend, while the host Roadrunners are coming off a sweep of the defending Robertson Cup champion Lone Star Brahmas.
For head coach Rocky Russo and the Bulls, the preparation stays the same for road games, but when the players take the ice, it’s about simplifying their game.
“You need to play a little bit tighter defensively, you need to be very disciplined,” Russo said of the challenges of playing on the road. “You don’t want to sell the other team’s tickets, so we want to play a quiet game.”
That will be a tough task against a Roadrunners team that leads the South Division in goals scored, but has also conceded the second-most goals in the division.
To try and combat that, Russo thinks the Bulls will need to pay attention to detail, as well as limit counter-attack chances, something they struggled with in last Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Corpus Christi.
“We don’t want to bring a lot of energy to their building,” Russo said. “We just want to focus on what we do well and making sure we’re playing close attention to detail and not giving away easy goals. We don’t want to turn pucks over, we don’t want to give away odd-man rushes, and if we can do that we’ll have success.”
The Roadrunners have paced in the early-going by forward Nick Granowicz, who leads the team in goals (5), assists (7), and points (12), tying him for fourth in the league in scoring. Will Schlagenhauf is another player to keep an eye on for Topeka, he is second on the team with six assists and eight points through 10 games.
In net, Emil Gransoe has seen the bulk of playing time for the Roadrunners, making six starts and posting a 2.52 goals against average, .932 save percentage to go with a 3-3 record.
The Bulls counter with forwards Jon Russell and Alex Peterson. Russell has had the hot hand on offense for the Bulls, scoring six goals in the last five games, giving him seven on the season, tied for the most in the NAHL, while Peterson has four goals and four assists on the season for eight points, second on the team behind Russell’s nine.
Both games this weekend will be broadcast on CBS Sports Radio 1440, online at www.amarillobulls.com, or on HockeyTV.com’s pay-per-view service.
Following the pair of games in Topeka, the Bulls will have a week off before returning to home ice on Oct. 27 and 28 for home against Corpus Christi.