Uncharted territory we are now in, huh?
Prior to this weekend the team hadn’t lost more than two in a row all season, which is incredible considering they’d made it 40 games into the season with that in their back pocket.
Don’t fall victim to the team’s success though, if someone had made mention to the roster and the fans alike that the club would have 28 wins in 42 games prior to the season’s start, likely everyone would be pleased.
It’s a rocky road at the moment but it’s not a head-scratching vibe wondering what needs to change, at least to the locker room, so fear not in that.
Let’s go over what happened this weekend and what’s next.
Friday vs. Colorado (4-3 Loss)
Everyone was aware coming into the weekend that the Colorado Eagles were a good team. One that’s had Tucson’s number since joining the league prior to last season. The weekend started with an even season series of three wins each, so anything was possible, especially after Tucson had earned just three wins in 12 tries last season.
When the game action got rolling, it was one of the wackier, if not the wackiest game we’ve seen at Tucson Arena this season. Ivan Prosvetov and Hunter Miska were great in the first period, combining to turn away 25 tries, including seven of which game during special teams play.
However, the second period couldn’t have been more of a polar opposite. An early penalty to Tucson gave Colorado a power play that they’d cash in on, then they would then double and triple down on it, taking the reigns at a 3-0 advantage just 5:06 into the middle frame.
That wasn’t it though, as Tucson would then push back for three of their own in the next 11 minutes. Michael Bunting started it and Tyler Steenbergen would follow him, along with Aaron Ness after the Eagles paraded their way to the penalty box, giving the Roadrunners their first evening with multiple power play goals in five weeks.
With the game even, another Colorado penalty gave the home team a chance to take their first lead of the night in the same period of which they trailed by a trio, but this time it went the other way on special teams. A shot that missed the net took a bad bounce on the rim past Jordan Gross, providing Jayson Megna and Martin Kaut with a two-on-one for half the length of the ice, one they didn’t miss upon. A well-placed shot beat Prosvetov high to the blocker side and it was back to a one-goal game at the end of two.
Tucson would put a push on in the third, winning the shots battle 11-6 but Miska hung tough and earned his team the 4-3 defeat after another scoreless 20 minutes.
40 minutes, zero goals. Seven goals in 16 minutes in between. As mentioned, it was a weird one.
The assessment from the team post-game was that they took their foot off the gas for five minutes and it cost them.
Saturday vs. Colorado (3-2 Shootout Loss)
Certainly what took place Friday couldn’t possibly happen again Saturday so it was hard to prepare for what we might see in the rematch.
There were similarities between the two games that would unfold, beginning with another tight first period. To be exact, two power plays for Colorado, one for Tucson, and another frame of Prosvetov and Miska being big all appeared to follow identical suit from the night before.
In the second, Colorado got the scoring started, another similarity, however, that’s about where they would end. The Roadrunners didn’t need three goals against to push back, as All-Star Brayden Burke, who had a pair of assists Friday, made his current point streak advance to four-games by setting up Cam Dineen for his third goal of the season. A brilliant display of patience by Dineen allowed him to navigate from the right point all the way down to the lower left slot around a surplus of traffic before beating Miska to the blocker-side after the Eagles netminder had seemingly lost him for a second in the midst of all the screens. Worth a look, if you haven’t seen it yet.
Before the end of the second Michael Bunting would give his team their first lead of the weekend, netting a goal for the second straight night, the second time he’s done so this season.
As we know though, good teams just don’t go away, a la Tucson down 3-0 Friday, and Saturday it was Colorado’s turn to bounce back. An unfortunate delay of game penalty inside the final ten minutes of the third period gave Colorado a power-play and the Eagles cashed in. Jacob MacDonald tied the game on the man advantage and the two sides would eventually need overtime and then a shootout to decide it.
The shootout would see nine straight scorers denied by Miska and Prosvetov before Friday night’s hero, Jayson Megna, would “step up to the plate” and beat the 20-year-old netminder, giving Colorado the weekend sweep.
A point taken and a point earned, the reaction post-game was that the Roadrunners actually liked the way they played throughout and the game could’ve gone either way. Last weekend against Bakersfield they knew they didn’t generate enough offense but they rectified that for this weekend. Friday night they admitted they kind of beat themselves and Saturday they got a point and liked the way they played. No panic and no reason to.
Where They Stand
Record: 28-12-1-1 (58 Points / .690 Win Percentage)
Pacific Division: First Place / First Place
Western Conference: Second Place / Second Place
The Week That Was
Friday, January 31
Eagles (4) at Roadrunners (2)
Saturday, February 1
Eagles (3) at Roadrunners (2) – SO
Up & Down
Thursday, January 30
- Goaltender Tyler Parks signed to a professional tryout.
Saturday, February 1
- Defenseman Kyle Capobianco recalled from loan by Arizona (NHL).
Sunday, February 2
- Defenseman Kyle Capobianco loaned to Tucson from Arizona (NHL).
Alumni In Action
Not one but two milestones for one of the fan base’s all-time favorite alumni here in Tucson, as Conor Garland record his 30th NHL goal in his 100th NHL game Saturday night in Glendale.
Since Conor’s first goal with the ‘Yotes in December of 2018, there’s nobody that’s worn the sweater that has recorded more tallies.
In The System
The Rush collected three out of a four possible points over the weekend, as they continue to hold on to the final playoff spot in the ECHL’s Mountain Division.
Crucial points without their starting netminder, Tyler Parks, who obviously spent his weekend with us in Tucson, and defenseman Jalen Smereck contributed with an assist in Saturday night’s affair, bringing his season’s accumulation to 14 points in 13 games.
Highlight Of The Week
Michael Bunting had two this weekend and this was the latter of the two. However, that’s not the highlight.
Going a bit off the beaten path here, watch what happens. Colorado has possession in their own end but Hudson Fasching and Michael Chaput don’t let them escape. Absolutely hounding them in their own end, a relentless forecheck, a pillar of Jay Varady’s team’s “identity” that we hear so often about directly results in a goal here for his club. Young Connor Timmins has no idea how to escape the Roadrunners captain and that results in the tally for 27.