‘Running Through 23-24

A Season To Remember:

After a 43-23-4-2 regular season record and finishing second in the AHL’s Pacific Division, the Roadrunners finished just short in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs versus the Calgary Wranglers. The 43-win season marks the most in a single-season for Tucson all-time; which helped the Roadrunners clinch home ice advantage and bring WhiteOut Tucson to the TCC for the first time since 2018.

The Keys To Success:

Most Roadrunner victories this season came with scoring first and holding the lead until the final whistle. Tucson’s 31-1-2-2 record when scoring first finished as the second-best in the AHL with a .917 winning percentage. In addition, the Roadrunners had a 21-1-1-2 record when leading after one period and a 27-0-1-2 record when leading after two periods. In addition, over half of the teams’ victories this season came in one-goal fashion at a 23-5-4-2 mark. Only four teams this season finished with 23 wins or better in one-goal games including: the Hershey Bears (24), Tucson Roadrunners (23), Milwaukee Admirals (23) and Rochester Americans (23).

A Full Staff Effort:

The Roadrunners saw 11 different players score 10 goals or better in 2023-24; which only three other teams accomplished this season; with Milwaukee and San Diego at 12 players and Syracuse also at 11 players. The Roadrunners also saw 10 players with 30-point seasons or better.

Records Broken:

2024-AHL All-Stars Josh Doan and Matthew Villalta had record-breaking seasons for the Roadrunners in 2023-24. Josh Doan finished the regular season campaign with 26 goals and 20 assists for 46 points in 62 games. His 26 goals ranked first on the Roadrunners along with all rookies in the AHL: including his 10 power-play goals as well. Doan now ranks third all-time in rookie scoring from a Roadrunner with his 46 points; while his 26 goals rank first all time; passing Dylan Strome’s 22 that he set in the 2017-18 season. Doan also became just the second Roadrunner to be selected to the 2024 AHL All-Rookie Team; joining Strome who was selected in the 2017-18 season. Netminder Matthew Villalta tied for the most AHL games played at 51; while sitting alone on top with the most wins in the AHL at 31. His 51 games played and 31 wins also set Roadrunner single-season records. The 51 games played passed Ivan Prosvetov’s 45 that he made in 2021-22; while the 31 wins crushed former Roadrunner goalie Hunter Miska’s 22 that was accomplished in 2017-18.

Making The Most Of The Opportunity:

This season, the Roadrunners set an all-time franchise record with most recalls in a season at 19; including six making their NHL debuts. Forward Dylan Guenther spent the most time in the NHL from Tucson this season; compiling 18 goals and 17 assists for 35 points in 45 games at a .77 points-per-game pace. Josh Doan made his NHL debut for the Arizona Coyotes, the same team his father Shane Doan played over 1500 games for: recording five goals and four assists in 11 games. In those first three games, (Josh) Doan set a franchise record of not only becoming the first Arizona native to play for the Coyotes, but also the first player to record a point in his first three career NHL games. Other Roadrunners who made their NHL debut this season include: Matthew Villalta, Patrik Koch, Cam Crotty, Max Szuber and Aku Raty. Raty played in the final game for the Coyotes this season and recorded his first career point with an assist.

Setting The Tone For Themselves:

Many Roadrunner players had breakout seasons or their best seasons statistically to date in 2023-24. Aku Raty, who was selected in the 2019 NHL draft by the Coyotes, finished a tremendous rookie season in the AHL with 15 goals and 29 assists for 44 points in 55 games. In his first 10 games of the season, he only had two assists, but became nearly a point-per-game player in his last 45 remaining contests: tallying 15 goals and 27 assists for 42 points. Raty also finished first on the Roadrunners in power-play points at 19: with five goals and 14 assists. Forward Austin Poganski was brought into the Coyotes Organization on a professional tryout (PTO) with the Roadrunners; becoming an every-game player for Tucson and signing an AHL contract for the remaining 2023-24 season on December 16. Poganski finished the year with 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points. His 14 goals were the most in a single season for the six-year forward; as well as his 31 points that he previously set in 2018-19; when he also had 31 points. In addition, Poganski finished with 14 total special teams points with seven goals and seven assists; comprising of 11 power-play points (5 goals, 6 assists) and three shorthanded points (2 goals, 1 assist). The 14 special teams points were the third-most on the Roadrunners behind Josh Doan’s 15 points (11 goals, 4 assists) and Aku Raty’s 19 points (5 goals, 14 assists). Defenseman Max Szuber finished the season as the third-highest scoring rookie blue liner in Roadrunners franchise history: with seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points in 70 games. His plus/minus of +14 is a franchise best from a Roadrunners rookie defenseman; which also led the 2023-24 Roadrunners team. Forward Colin Theisen played a small sample size of 33 games this season; scoring seven goals and adding 12 assists for 19 points; which was at a .58 points-per-game pace that was seventh on the Roadrunners. In his three seasons in Tucson, Theisen has tallied 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points; which is a .56 points-per-game rate. Tucson fan favorite Cameron Hebig statistically had his best season to date in the AHL with 12 goals and 20 assists for 32 points in 61 games. He was third on the team in multiple-point games at eight; including a career best four-point night on April 12 versus the Colorado Eagles with one goal and three assists. Hebig finished tied for first on the team in multiple-assist games at five with Aku Raty, Justin Kirkland and Steven Kampfer. He also closed out as the top scoring Roadrunner for the month of April: with three goals and six assists for nine points. Hunter Drew also finished the season strong; compiling five goals and four assists for nine points in the final nine games of the regular season; including a season high-four game point streak to end the year. Drew also had a goal in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.  

The Heavy Weight Champs:

This season the Roadrunners were involved in 40 total fights: with Curtis Douglas leading the way at 10, Montana Onyebuchi at eight, Ben McCartney at six, Travis Barron at four, Hunter Drew at three and Jan Jenik and Cam Crotty had two; along with Milos Kelemen, Michael Kesselring, Justin Kirkland and former Roadrunner Zach Sanford at one. Tucson led the entire AHL in penalty minutes with 1280 this season; including 200 of those minutes coming from fights alone. Douglas (148 penalty minutes) and Onyebuchi (145 penalty minutes) were both within the top 10 of the league in player penalty minutes: with Douglas at 6th and Onyebuchi at 7th. In addition, Drew was ranked 24th in the league with 101 penalty minutes and Patrik Koch was ranked 31st with 97 penalty minutes.

The Year Of Dusty:

Dusty has made 123 appearances since July 4, 2023; including stops at: Reid Park Zoo on July 23, Arizona Bilingual’s Back To School Expo on July 30, Roadrunners Fan Fest on October 18, TCC’s Holiday Skate on December 5, The 2023 Arizona Bowl on December 30, Tip-A-Roadrunner at Dave and Buster’s on January 23. Dusty also visited places with Roadrunner players that are big impacts in the Tucson community including: Tucson VA Hospital to meet veterans who served in the United States Military on November 6, Banner Health’s Diamond Children’s Medical Center on December 18 to distribute gift bags ahead of the holidays and again for arts and crafts with patients on February 21 and The Tucson Family Food Project to help in meal preparation for local children on December 5. Dusty capped off the 2023-24 season with his WhiteOut Tour during the first Round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. He along with his Rally Runners were all over Tucson distributing exclusive WhiteOut Bracelets and tickets to lucky fans. Dusty also invited businesses and organizations to enter and win Dusty’s Lucky Dozen; where winners received 12 tickets to game one of the playoffs and 12 WhiteOut Cookies that were personally delivered by Dusty.

The Fans Of Tucson:

The Roadrunners brought in just over 148,400 fans in attendance this season; including 6,205 on April 20 for Fan Appreciation Night; which was the most in a single game for Tucson since the COVID-19 Pandemic. In the two games in round one of the Calder Cup Playoffs, the Roadrunners drew a WhiteOut crowd of 10,002 fans at the TCC; which was the most in a two-game set in Roadrunner playoff history. In addition, the 5,178 fans in attendance in game two of the playoffs on April 26 set the franchise record in a single playoff game in franchise history.