The annual Gem Show Road Trip kicked off this week with a tour of California, three games in four nights in three different buildings.
We’ll touch on what transpired Wednesday and Friday for the sake of completion, however, the team earned a much needed win on Saturday night in Southern California, snapping a “less than ideal” stretch that begin back on January 24 at Tucson Arena and ending the week on a high note.
In reality, the week began on a high note too though, with some exciting news coming on Tuesday.
Working his way back from injury toward the Coyotes lineup, it was announced a little over 24 hours ahead of the team’s meeting with Bakersfield that the fifth overall selection in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft Barrett Hayton would be joining the club for the week.
Here’s what transpired with the 19-year-old as a part of the roster…
Wednesday at Bakersfield (4-2 Loss)
For the third time on the road this season the Roadrunners found themselves behind the eight ball early, allowing a goal inside of the first minute. An unfortunate hop of the puck from the corner allowed the Condors to capitalize, thus giving Tucson a bit of a hole to start.
They would dig out of that one though, as a late first power play goal from Beau Bennett brought Tucson back to even. The issue was though that the score would only remain even for 37 seconds before the home side pushed back, scoring just ahead of the team’s heading back down the tunnels for intermission, thus taking the momentum right back.
From there it was almost all Condors, as they’d cash in on two straight to start the second, including a shorthanded one and with full momentum and a 4-1 advantage, it was just about over from there.
The lone highlight the remainder of the way though was when Hayton jumped on a Bakersfield turnover in the attacking end, then going three quarters length of the ice before sliding one below Stuart Skinner for a highlight-reel goal.
Tucson did put together a nice push in the third and Ivan Prosvetov stood on his head on several occasions during the final 20 but there was no further scoring to be found, thus resulting in the 4-2 final.
Friday vs. San Diego (5-3 Loss)
A trip down the I-5 later, Tucson looked as if it had had enough of their recent skid and came out with a fast start inside Pechanga Arena.
In one of the best periods the team had put together in recent memory, goals from Jon Martin and Andy Miele (by way of a beautiful power play strike) had the Roadrunners sitting pretty at the end of 20, leading 2-0 and winning the shots battle 15-5.
Unfortunately that taste wouldn’t last, however. In less than eight minutes within the second period San Diego would not only battle back, but they’d come all the way back to take control. Coming in the form of a flawlessly executed offensive zone faceoff play, a power play and a four-on-four goal, the home side was then the one in command at the end of two, leading by one.
Thankfully the team came back out for the third with energy resembling that of their first, resulting in a Michael Bunting tally just 54 seconds into the final period of regulation to tie things up. The goal was setup by Tyler Steenbergen, who had an absolutely fantastic evening, registering his third multipoint performance against the Gulls of the season with a pair of assists.
Continuing to win the shots battle, one that would eventually conclude 40-25 in their favor, it was next then where we were reminded that even the smallest details can have the biggest of implications. A Tucson penalty, the only one of the third period in fact, sent San Diego for the power play and for the second time in four power plays, they didn’t miss. Former Roadrunner Chris Mueller tucked one home and that was that. An empty netter sealed the deal, 5-3 Gulls.
Saturday at Ontario (5-1 Win)
Without question the Roadrunners were the better team Friday, they just didn’t get the result. Saturday, they did.
There were many similarities between the two games, including another outstanding start from the team. Dominating possession and winning the shots category, this time by an even stronger amount (16-7), captain Michael Chaput got the scoring started just four minutes in.
Despite that being the only goal of the first, the momentum continued trending in Tucson’s favor as Ontario paraded their way to the penalty box, providing the Roadrunners with six power play chances through the first 40 minutes of play.
Like Friday, there were three goals in the second period, this time all coming from the visiting side. Another Chaput – Brayden Burke connection made the lead a pair, Hudson Fasching deposited a slick setup by Kyle Capobianco and Jon Martin and then Cam Dineen poked one home on the man advantage.
It was just about over from that point on, except for Ontario spoiling Tyler Parks’ shutout bid in the third. Parks, who was making his third AHL start and giving Ivan Prosvetov his first night off in six games, was very strong throughout, earning his second win by denying 21/22.
Brayden Burke then put the icing on the cake with a power play goal, capping a two-goal night for him and a two assist night for Barrett Hayton. The only player that topped those two was Hudson Fasching, who finished with one and two.
Another successful night for the special teams units made it five straight games for Steve Potvin’s power play, a great thing to see clicking this time of year.
Where They Stand
Record: 29-14-1-1 (60 Points / .667 Win Percentage)
Pacific Division: First Place / First Place
Western Conference: Second Place / Second Place
The Week That Was
Wednesday, February 5
Roadrunners (2) at Condors (4)
Mechanics Bank Arena
Friday, February 7
Roadrunners (3) at Gulls (5)
Saturday, February 8
Roadrunners (5) at Reign (1)
Up & Down
Monday, February 3
- Defenseman Jalen Smereck reassigned to Tucson by Arizona (NHL) from Rapid City (AHL).
Tuesday, February 4
- Defenseman Aaron Ness recalled from loan by Arizona (NHL).
- Forward Barrett Hayton added on conditioning loan by Arizona (NHL).
Wednesday, February 6
- Defenseman Robbie Russo recalled from loan Arizona (NHL).
Sunday, February 10
- Defenseman Robbie Russo loaned to Tucson by Arizona (NHL).
Alumni In Action
If it feels like we talk about the same player every week in this section, well, it’s because we do, a lot. But how could we not?
Conor Garland put a bow on a four-game point streak last week, recording his 17th, 18th, and 19th goals of the season. The former Roadrunner never reached 20 goals in a season with us but is just around the corner from doing so on the big stage.
In The System
Some more inspiring news came over the weekend with goaltender Merrick Madsen making way back from injury, starting his first game in net for Rapid City since November 16.
There have been unfortunate bumps in the young career of the Harvard Graduate thus far, however, it’s outstanding to see him getting back to game action.
Highlight Of The Week
He’s only 19-years-old but my goodness is he talented on the offensive side of things.
It was a tiny miscommunication from Bakersfield and not only does Barrett Hayton take advantage here, but he also capitalizes at the other end of the nice.