It’d been 20 days since the Roadrunners last took the ice for game action at Tucson Arena prior to Friday but that changed as the team entered an important weekend set of games against the Stockton Heat.
A “first place against second place” set to enter the final to enter the home stretch of the season.
Monday at San Jose (6-3 Loss)
In search of a win to conclude the trip, Tucson was behind the eight ball early, allowing two goals in the first 65 seconds in San Jose.
It wouldn’t dictate the outcome of the game; thanks to a pair of goals from Hudson Fasching and Jordan Gross the Roadrunners would tie the game at 2-2 early in the second.
Missed opportunities on the power play by Tucson and momentum generated by way of successful penalty kills for the Barracuda were the X-Factor though, as just seconds after nearly four straight minutes of time on the man advantage by the Roadrunners concluded without a score, San Jose cashed in to take the lead back.
They’d score another 2:14 later while on a five-on-three and tacking on two more in the third, Tucson’s trip ended in a 6-3 defeat.
Friday vs. Stockton (3-2 Overtime Win)
Meeting the Heat for the second (and eventually third) time within a week, Friday’s scoring can be quickly summarized by saying that the team’s traded even strength goals in the first and power play goals in the second, both coming less than four minutes apart each.
Beau Bennett had both of those regulation goals for Tucson, however, the biggest storyline of the game was that Stockton, known for their rough-and-tough brand of hockey, provided the Roadrunners with TEN power play opportunities over the course of the game, including over half of the second period.
While the Roadrunners got one on their chances, no scoring in the third forced overtime, giving both sides a point to open the weekend.
In the overtime, Michael Bunting went to the bank, capitalizing on a high-risk, high-reward attempt in which be scored from below the goal line, putting it off the lower paraphernalia of Stockton netminder Jon Gillies and in to win it for Tucson.
Backstopping the team to their win was Ivan Prosvetov, who went a strong 28 for 30 in the effort.
Saturday vs. Stockton (4-1 Loss)
Saturday’s fireworks began in the morning hours with the announcement of NHL All-Star Darcy Kuemper being assigned to Tucson on a conditioning loan.
Out of action since December 19, Kuemper got close to returning to the Yotes lineup two weeks ago in Montreal, however, wound up suffering a brief setback and the organization wanted to get him another attempt at game reps before returning to the big club’s lineup.
The nine-year veteran would indeed start for the team just hours later, putting together a steady 26/28 performance in the home net.
His seven-for-seven in the first period allowed Kyle Capobianco to open the evening’s scoring with a second period power play goal, a nice seeying-eye wrist shot through traffic to earn him his 30thpoint in 35 games with the Roadrunners this season.
Unfortunately, that would be the only goal of the night for Tucson. Cited post-game by Head Coach Jay Varady as a “lack of discipline” by his club, the home team gave Stockton, the Western Conference’s second-best power play, five chances in the final 23 minutes of the game. The Heat would score twice on their first two chances of the third just over three minutes apart to take the lead and then two empty net goals before the end of the night would capsize Tucson with the eventual 4-1 final.
All-in-all, with no even strength goals allowed, Kuemper, the highlight of the night for Tucson, made it through unscathed in the injury department and felt good physically, thus making his appearance in Southern Arizona a “one and done”.
Where They Stand
Record: 31-17-1-2 (65 Points / .637 Win Percentage)
Pacific Division: T-First Place / Third Place
Western Conference: T-Third Place / Fifth Place
The Week That Was
Monday, February 17
Roadrunners (3) at San Jose (6)
Friday, February 21
Heat (2) at Roadrunners (3) – OT
Saturday, February 22
Heat (4) at Roadrunners (1)
Up & Down
Saturday, February 22
- Goaltender Darcy Kuemper assigned to Tucson on conditioning loan.
Sunday, February 23
- Goaltender Darcy Kuemper recalled by Arizona (NHL) from conditioning loan.
Alumni In Action
Another week, another reason to celebrate Conor Garland.
The three-year Roadrunner had his first four-point game in the team’s 7-3 victory over the second-best team in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night. Garland now has 22 goals on the season, the second-highest total by any player on the team in the past five years.
In The System
Keeghan Howdeshell, who is celebrating his 22nd birthday on Monday, recorded another assist for Rapid City over the weekend, bringing his season total to 29 points in 42 games.
Rapid City currently still sits in fourth in the ECHL’s Mountain Division, holding a one-point gap over Tulsa for a playoff spot.
Highlight Of The Week
First game home in 20 days, why not end it with some overtime drama?
It may not be the prettiest goal of all-time, however, the guts on Bunting were rewarded with this high-risk maneuver. If it didn’t bank off of Jon Gillies pad, perhaps missing, it’s a sure-fire odd-man rush the entire length of the ice for Stockton. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and the Tucson Arena crowd went home happy.