Showcased on a national stage for the league’s annual mid-season event, Jay Varady, Kyle Capobianco and Brayden Burke gave Tucsonans and fans of the Roadrunners alike plenty to be proud of over the course of the last 72 hours.
Heading to Southern California early in the day Sunday following their participation in the team’s two games at Tucson Arena against the Bakersfield Condors, the trio would put their differences aside against their recent foe to unify the Pacific Division as a part of the Western Conference’s successful weekend in Ontario.
(Note: Due to an injury, Lane Pederson did not travel to Ontario or play in the All-Star Classic, despite being selected.)
Sunday’s Skills Competition
As Head Coach Jay Varady enjoyed presumably his easiest day of the festivities, Brayden Burke and Kyle Capobianco went to work, each taking part in three of seven events en route to the West’s 18-15 victory in the All-Star Skills Competition.
Capobianco led things off by bringing home a victory for a second consecutive year in the Puck Control Relay, anchoring a trio of Stockton’s Glenn Gawdin and Milwaukee’s Alexandre Carrier. The silky smooth stride and the impeccable edge work, things we get to see on a nightly basis, were presented in their full glory on national television.
After Capobianco put his “wheels” on display, it was Burke’s turn in the Fastest Skater. Placing fifth overall in the event, the second-year pro from the Western Hockey League recorded a lap of 14.3 seconds. Not too shabby.
To conclude the first night’s action, both three-person teams that Burke and Capobianco were a part of recorded at least one goal on three tries in the Pass and Score, including this nifty display of patience by #23.
Monday’s All-Star Challenge
A round-robin tournament style format pitted the Pacific Division roster up against each the Atlantic, Central and North Divisions in two five-minute periods at three-on-three play.
Game One (6-5 Shootout Win vs. North)
All it took was 69 seconds for Brayden Burke to show off his goal scoring ability to the world, polishing off a two-on-one with T.J. Tynan of the Colorado Eagles.
Later in the frame Burke would return the favor, setting up Tynan for the Pacific to go ahead 4-2. However, that lead wouldn’t last though and it was Jay Varady who wound up being the X-factor as the game. Trailing by one following three consecutive goals by the North, Varady opted for the somewhat-uncommon pulling of the netminder in an All-Star Challenge. What we’ve known for 15 months now though was presented to the national audience then, and it’s that he’s money. Joachim Blichfeld of San Jose would score the game-tying goal, forcing a shootout of which Tynan and Chris Wideman of the San Diego Gulls wrapped up for the victory.
Game Two (3-2 Loss vs. Atlantic)
After the team set the tone with a run-and-gun, open ice offense attack in game one, the Pacific’s second game of the evening was toward the other end of the spectrum, stonewalled by the tandem of eventual MVP Vitaek Vanecek (Hershey) and Alex Nedeljkovic (Charlotte), each allowing just one goal.
Neither of Tucson’s stars would factor in on the offense in the team’s only loss, which proved to be costly.
Game Three (5-4 Shootout Win vs. Central)
The group’s final game of the night began the same way the first one did, with an Brayden Burke tally. Burke, who was wearing #19 at the event due to San Diego’s Anthony Stolarz being an original selection (Burke was added late to the roster), he was able to maintain his standard #41, finished one here with a nice little backhand move.
Quickly, the Central Division got a double dip of Tucson though, as just FIVE seconds later, Capobianco then got a goal of his own. In fact, so fast, the broadcast was still showing the replay of Burke’s goal.
The Central Division All-Stars would make it interesting, forcing another shootout, but the Pacific prevailed again, concluding the round robin with a record of 2-1.
Perhaps the most unfortunate part of the weekend though was that the Atlantic also finished 2-1 and because of the head-to-head being the tiebreaker, the Pacific was bounced from finals contention.
All in all, a tremendous weekend of representation filled with lots of love for the current Pacific Division leading team on a national scale.