By: Alex Kinkopf
October 09, 2017 3:09 PM
The Roadrunners will spend the week practicing at the IceDen in Scottsdale as they prepare to begin a four-game road trip, which begins Saturday night when they take on the Bakersfield Condors at Rabobank Arena.
The Condors are coming off of a 4-1 road loss to the Stockton Heat on Friday night. Prior to the Roadrunners’ visit, Bakersfield will host the San Antonio Rampage for their home opener on Thursday.
One of the main focuses during the week ahead will be the team’s penalty kill. The Roadrunners allowed three power play goals to the Gulls on Saturday. “We haven’t had a lot of work on our PK,” said Head Coach Mike Van Ryn. “We’ll be getting to work on that this week.”
“It’s easy to play from behind, it’s hard to play with a lead. It’s hard; it’s mental toughness, it’s guys doing the right thing no matter what, and that will come for us over time." - Mike Van Ryn
One of the pluses to come of the Roadrunners’ 7-6 loss to the Gulls on Saturday night was the club’s balanced scoring – all six goals were scored by a different player, including Mario Kempe, who will not be with the team Saturday following his recall to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday morning.
“It was great,” Van Ryn said of the team’s wide range of goal scorers. “I think we’re a better team when we’re just advancing the puck, rather than when we try to make fancy plays. This game is all about races, offensively and defensively, and I thought that was a big part about a lot of our goals, was our hustle and trying to track down pucks and winning the races to the net. It’s nice to see the scoring spread out; we’ve just got to fix some defensive woes.”
On the flip side of the team’s ability to attack in the offensive zone came what, at times, seemed to be a timid approach in the neutral and defensive zones.
“I think we were playing not to get scored on, and I’ve been in those shoes too when I was a young player, “Van Ryn said. “We’ve got to learn to keep going, to keep being relentless. The biggest thing for us is just sticking to the system; if we do that we’ll be fine. Defensively, things will tighten up over time; it’s a brand new system for us.”
Mario Kempe, who was a major part of the Roadrunners’ valiant offensive attack on Saturday with a goal and two assists, will get a shot to crack the Coyotes’ lineup when the team travels to play the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night.
“[Kempe] is an energy guy and we need energy guys right now,” Coyotes Head Coach Rick Tocchet told Dave Vest on Monday.
Dylan Strome has joined the Roadrunners in Scottsdale; he played in the Coyotes’ first two regular season games and didn’t register any points. In seven games with the NHL club last season, Strome notched an assist.
“He’s definitely an NHL player, it’s just what’s the path to do it,” Tocchet told Dave Vest Monday. “I think this is the best path right now.”
The Roadrunners won’t be back on home ice at Tucson Arena until October 27, but the Opening Night crowd left a striking impression on Mike Van Ryn while he was behind the bench for his first regular season game with the team.
“Yeah, it was awesome,” he said of the crowd support. “They did great, they did their part, no doubt about it. I haven’t been in this building too many nights when they weren’t exciting, It’s great, our guys fed off of it, and hopefully we can get that all of the time – that would be great. It’s hard for other teams to come in when it’s like that, so kudos to them for the job they did.”