Game #1: Tucson (2) at Texas (0)
SOG: TUC (29) – TEX (19)
PP: TUC (1/4) – TEX (0/4)
TUC SCORING: Burke (1), Martin (1)
TEX SCORING: N/A
Raving Over Raanta
Jumping out to the fast start that all hockey coaches, players and fans dream of, from the opening puck drop on Friday in Cedar Park, TX, the Roadrunners were ready to go.
An opening faceoff win by newly appointed captain Michael Chaput started the snowball effect, transitioning play into the Texas end and implementing a heavy-style of pressure immediately. The aggressiveness led to the first man advantage of the season, one that would also become the first successful man advantage of the season.
Almost flawlessly executed, Brayden Burke won a faceoff from the right of Texas netminder Landon Bow back to Aaron Ness, whom was making his team debut after being signed by the Coyotes on July 1. Like clockwork, Ness worked the puck to the right point, being held down by Nick Merkley. Merkley used the open space to take a stride toward net, whistle a pass back across the circles to Brayden Burke, whom would fire above the shoulder of Bow. Like that, it was 1-0 Tucson just 3:20 in.
In the second, also making his Roadrunners debut, Jon Martin cashed in on a loose puck in front, advancing the Tucson lead to two. On a rush led by Jeremy Gregoire and Nate Schnarr, who displayed their chemistry last weekend during the club’s preseason games in Milwaukee, a shot from Gregoire kicked out to the slot where a trailing Martin would receive, work toward his backhand and fire. The soft backhand attempt took a deflection off the skate of a Star defender and past Bow, extending that lead to two.
After a brief spurt of momentum for Texas during the end of the second, the Roadrunners came out for the third with emphasis on holding the lead, quickly establishing a strangling presence. At one point in the third shots were 7-1 in favor of Tucson.
The lead would not be surrendered and the flawless night of conditioning for Antti Raanta ended with credit for a 19-save shutout. Albeit not tested repeatedly throughout the evening, Raanta was up to the task for the full 60 minutes, including perhaps his best save of the evening in the final seconds of the contest.
THEY SAID IT
“I think it was a really good first game. We’ve got a lot to build off on, but so do a lot of teams after the first night. It’s good though, it’ll be a learning curve for us but hopefully we can keep excelling every night.” –Roadrunners defenseman Aaron Ness following Friday’s victory.
DON’T OVERLOOK IT
While Antti Raanta will deservedly get the shine for posting his shutout tonight, as many goaltenders are quick to point out in efforts such as this, the Roadrunners group in front of him deserves just as much.
One of the bigger moments of the night came at the end of the second period when Texas was starting to surge a bit and posing a real threat just prior entering the locker room. However, a substantial block from Jeremy Gregoire that left him limp for a moment closed off a pivotal threat, allowing Raanta’s perfect evening to remain in tact.
GOTTA SEE IT
Striking on the power play less than four minutes into the season opener undoubtedly takes the cake for highlight of the night. The faceoff win (by Burke after Chaput is tossed), led into riveting execution from Aaron Ness and Nick Merkley, only to come back full circle for Burke.
It was all love after the final horn tonight. A great start and a complete effort, what more could you ask for?
(Photo Credit: Rebekah Bing)