Tucson Roadrunners Road Ahead: The Push For Home Ice

Upcoming Games (All Times MST)

Friday, April 12, Tucson vs. Colorado, 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, April 13, Tucson vs. Colorado, 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, April 17, Tucson @ Coachella valley, 7:00 p.m.

Roadrunners Record Through 67 Games: 39-23-3-2 (83 points), second place in the Pacific Division, third place in the Western Conference.

Pacific Playoff Watch This Week:

Coachella Valley Firebirds 43-14-5-4, (95 points), First Place

  • Wednesday, April 10 vs. Ontario Reign at 7:00 p.m. PST
  • Friday, April 12 vs. Bakersfield at 7:00 p.m. PST
  • Sunday, April 7 vs. San Diego at 7:00 p.m. PST

Ontario Reign 38-21-3-4, (83 points), Third Place

  • Wednesday, April 10 vs. Coachella Valley Firebirds at 7:00 p.m. PST
  • Friday, April 12 vs. San Diego Gulls at 7:00 p.m. PST
  • Saturday, April 13 @ Henderson Silver Knights at 7:00 p.m. PST

Colorado Eagles 37-22-5-2, (81 points), Fourth Place

  • Friday, April 12 @ Tucson Roadrunners at 7:00 p.m. MST
  • Saturday, April 13 @ Tucson Roadrunners at 7:00 p.m. MST

Abbotsford Canucks 36-25-5-2, (79 points), fifth Place

  • Thursday, April 11 @ Calgary Wranglers at 7:00 p.m. MST
  • Friday, April 12 @ Calgary Wranglers at 7:00 p.m. MST

Bakersfield Condors 37-26-2-2, (74 points), sixth Place

  • Wednesday, April 10 vs. San Diego Gulls at 6:30 p.m. PST
  • Friday, April 12 @ Coachella Valley Firebirds at 7:00 p.m. PST

Calgary Wranglers 35-25-5-3, (78 Points), seventh Place

  • Thursday, April 11 vs. Abbotsford Canucks at 7:00 p.m. MST
  • Friday, April 12 vs. Abbotsford Canucks at 7:00 p.m. MST

Check Out The Entire AHL Playoff Primer HERE

The New Kid On The Block:

The Roadrunners newest forward Sam Lipkin was signed to a three-year entry level contract on Thursday, April 5 by the Arizona Coyotes and was assigned to the Tucson Roadrunners to help the playoff push. The former Quinnipiac forward impressed in his first two career AHL games in San Diego; notching an assist in his first career game paired with forward Austin Poganski and Cameron Hebig. Lipkin fills in the role similar to Josh Doan on Tucson’s playoff push last season. In 14 games played after being signed to an entry level contract by the Arizona Coyotes during the 2022-23 season. The Arizona native helped Tucson make the playoffs with six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in 14 games played; and added an assist in three games for the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Seeing An Old Friend:

The Roadrunners face off against the Colorado Eagles in a two-game series on Friday, April 12 and Saturday, April 13. Tucson has a slim two-point lead over the Eagles in the standings at 83 points with Colorado at 81. One of the bigger stories of the series is former Roadrunners goaltender Ivan Prosvetov making his return to the TCC for the first time since being claimed off waivers by the Colorado Avalanche on October 9. Prosvetov spent four seasons from 2019-2023 with the Arizona Coyotes and Tucson Roadrunners; compiling a 4.07 goals against average, .871 save percentage and 4-6-1 record in 13 games with the Coyotes and a 3.30 goals against average, .895 save percentage and 54-54-10 record in 125 games with the Roadrunners. This season, Prosvetov has spent time with the Colorado Avalanche and Colorado Eagles where he’s recently helped the Eagles with their playoff push and a 2.20 goals-against-average, .922 save percentage and 10-5-2-2 record in 18 games.

Drew It Up Just How We Wanted:

Forward Hunter Drew helped Tucson secure the crucial sweep over the San Diego Gulls with two goals and an assist. Drew in total has four points (3 goals, 1 assist) in his last four games with points all coming in three games against his former team the San Diego Gulls. Drew has been part of a core for Tucson that was brought in this season to help the team win and contend in the playoffs. Members of the Roadrunners who are in their first seasons with the organization have combined for 201 points (67 goals, 134 assists) this season that includes: Aku Raty (14 goals, 28 assists, 42 points) Justin Kirkland (8 goals, 22 assists 30 points), Austin Poganski (14, goals 15 assists, 29 points), John Leonard (11 goals, 17 assists, 28 points), Max Szuber (6 goals, 18 assists, 24 points), Patrik Koch (1 goals, 13 assists, 14 points), Hunter Drew (8 goals, 5 assists, 13 points) Montana Onyebuchi (2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points), Peter DiLiberatore (1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points), Lleyton Moore (2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points), who is with the Wichita Thunder, and newest member Sam Lipkin (1 assist, 1 point).

The Backbone:

Goaltender Matthew Villalta has started all three games for Tucson to start the last month of April with Tucson making the push for WhiteOut in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. In the last three games, Villalta has a 1.96 goals against average and .930 save percentage that leads all goalies in April with also the most minutes played at 184. Many players, coaches and staff for the Roadrunners refer to Villalta as the “backbone” of the team and rightfully so. His 48 games played are tied for first in the AHL with only Jakub Dobes of the Laval Rocket; with 28 of those games coming as victories that sits alone at first in the entire league. With five games left of the season, Villalta has already broken Tucson records of games played and wins. Out of the eight goalies in the AHL with 40 games played or more, Villalta ranks fourth in goals against at 2.59 and third in save percentage at .911.   

Heavy Weights of Tucson:

Tucson is coming off the month of March where the team saw nine fights: the most in a single month this season. In the last 17 games, Roadrunners have been in 12 fights with three already in the first three games of April. Curtis Douglas has been involved in three of the 17 fights: marking his total up to 10 this season. Fight number 10 for Douglas came in Tucson’s 4-1 victory over the San Diego Gulls on Saturday, April 6 with a tussle versus Gulls forward Travis Howe. Per AHL rule, 10 fights in a season results in an automatic suspension but the Roadrunners petitioned that Howe instigated the fight, so Douglas’ suspension was rescinded by the league.

Five Left:

With just five games on the regular season Calendar, Tucson has Colorado (2 games), Coachella Valley and San Jose (2 games) remaining on the schedule. Tucson’s 83 points puts them in sole possession for second place in the Division at a tiebreaker over the Ontario Reign with one more regulation win. Colorado remains fourth in the division at 81 points; which is the last standings spot that is given home ice advantage for round one of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Though Tucson is second, their 83 points are separated by just five points from seventh place; which is the last playoff seed for the Calder Cup playoffs of the Pacific Division. If the Roadrunners finish the regular season in second place, not only the team would have home ice advantage for round one, but including round two should the team advance to it.

On The Big Screen:
Tucson Roadrunners Happy Hour airs every Tuesday at 5 p.m. on FOX Sports 1450AM and the iHeartRadio app, with a podcast version also available after each episode on the iHeartRadio app. This week Adrian Denny with Co-Hosts Kim Cota-Robles and Brett Fera are joined by Roadrunners forward Aku Raty. In addition, the latest episode of the Tucson Roadrunners Insider Podcast dropped Sunday for a Bus Stop Special after Tucson’s sweep over San Diego. In addition, on Saturday, April 13 Adrian Denny and Brett Fera are on My 18 for the televised game versus the Colorado Eagles at 7:00 p.m.; while Jonathon Schaffer brings play-by-play on FoxSports1450AM and AHLtv.