Roadrunners wrap-up first season in Tucson on high note
Tucson Roadrunners alternate captain Chris Mueller skates with the puck through the defensive zone. The Roadrunners finished their first season in Tucson 28-31-8-0.
The Tucson Roadrunners ice hockey team finished its first season with a three-game road winning streak. In what has been a roller coaster of a season, the Roadrunners can leave the desert with their heads held high.
Tucson lost its chances of making it into the playoffs after dropping two games against the Manitoba Moose last week. During those two games, the Stockton Heat clinched the last playoff spot in the Pacific Division on Thursday with a winning streak of their own.
The Roadrunners traveled to San Jose on Tuesday to play the best team in the AHL Pacific Division: the Barracuda.
The Roadrunners picked up a tough 2-1 victory in a game where they were outshot 33-19. Tucson picked up plenty of penalty minutes but killed off all seven attempts the Barracuda had on the power play.
The Roadrunners received both goals from rookie standouts Christian Fischer and Kyle Wood. Fischer scored his 20th goal of the season early in the first period. Wood added a power play goal later in the period for his 14th of the year. Chris Mueller continued his outstanding season with two assists in the game.
Tucson returned to the ice in San Jose on Thursday to play the Barracuda for the last time in the 2016-17 season. The Roadrunners trailed the game 3-1 late in the third period, until Jeremy Morin scored his 14th of the year with 3:59 left in the period. Jamie McBain tied the game with 40 seconds remaining.
After 60 minutes, the game was tied 3-3, forcing overtime. It did not take the Roadrunners’ alternate captain Mueller long to score the game-winner when he put one past the Barracuda goaltender just 50 seconds into overtime. It was Mueller’s 19th of the year, McBain collected an assist on the goal, giving him a 2-point night.
The Roadrunners remained in California but traveled to Stockton to play the final game of the season against the Heat. Goal scoring was not an issue in the game, where both teams scored a total of 10 goals before a forced overtime period.
Tucson lead the game 4-1 at the end of the second period; Morin had 2 goals, giving him 16 on the year. Jalen Smereck scored his first career AHL goal for the Roadrunners; the defensemen played his first AHL game in Manitoba the week before.
Tucson could not shut down the offense of the Heat in the third period when Stockton exploded for four goals. Conor Garland put up a goal for the Roadrunner, keeping the game tied 5-5. Roadrunner forward Tyler Gaudet scored the game-winner 2:34 into overtime. Gaudet finished the year with six goals, the last one putting a cap on the first year for the Roadrunners.
The Tucson Roadrunners finished its first year with a record of 28-31-8-0, which placed them sixth in the Pacific Division. For a period of time earlier this year, the Roadrunners sat atop the league with an offense that scored early and often.
Tucson Roadrunners captain Craig Cunningham was the biggest story of the season when he collapsed on the ice on Nov. 19, 2016. Cunningham returned in March to drop the puck and give a thank you to all the fans who supported him and the team.
Tucson saw Mueller have the greatest season of his career with 67 points, third most in the AHL. Mueller also finished second in the league in assists with 48 on the year.
Two players went to the AHL all-star game for the Roadrunners, defensemen Kyle Wood and forward Christian Fischer. Wood took home the title of the AHL’s hardest shot champion.
The Roadrunners’ first season at the Tucson Convention Center started off fast but came to a halt late in the season. Although the season is over, the work never stops for the front office or the players. Players will return to the gym and practice, preparing for the Roadrunners second season, which will begin in October.
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