The Tucson Roadrunners split their weekend home series with the San Antonio Rampage last Friday and Saturday. They defeated them 2-1 Friday night in overtime, and lost 1-0 in overtime Saturday night.
The loss puts Tucson to 29-16-3-1 on the season with 62 points. They continue to hold on to the lead in the Pacific Division, leading the second place San Diego Gulls by five points.
Here is your weekly roundup on the biggest takeaways you need to know from this past weekend.
Adin Hill gets the double start
The Roadrunners broke off the regular goaltender rotation this weekend, giving the nod to Adin Hill for both nights.
Usually, on back-to-back nights, the Roadrunners will elect to start Hill on the first night, and will give the second night start to Hunter Miska.
“It’s a development league,” Roadrunners head coach Mike Van Ryn said. “So we’ve been trying to develop two young goalies and now we’ll look at the schedule and be a little more calculated to who starts.
“(Hill) was good and those games are tough to play in when you’re not getting a lot of shots... but I thought he was good.”
Hill put aside 31 shots against the Rampage in the Roadrunners 2-1 winning effort on Friday, but had the quietest night for a goaltender the following night. On Saturday, Hill only saw 11 shots faced against him — including the game winning goal in overtime — the lowest among the American Hockey League games this season.
Tucson’s shot count was unreal
Tucson was overall the better team this weekend, unloading 74 shots against the Rampage goaltender, Ville Husso, this weekend.
That included 30 shots in Fridays match, and an additional 44 on Saturday.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Van Ryn said after Saturday’s loss. “In the second we had a lot of real good chances in tight. We just didn’t elevate enough we had them down and out a few times and couldn’t manage to raise the puck over top of them.
“...And that goalie (Husso). we shot 50-something shots on him in San Antonio and I think we scored two. He plays well against us for some reason. He’s in our heads a little bit.”
The Power Play (Dis)Advantage
Despite Tucson’s heavy shot production, the team struggled mightily on the power play against the Rampage this weekend. In both games, the Roadrunners went 0-of-14 combined while on the man advantage.
“That happens,” Van Ryn said, “It comes and goes. And we seem to be streaky as a group about that.”
Van Ryn also noted that it became more tough on Saturday with the absence of Laurent Dauphin.
But power play struggles appear to be a reoccurring theme for the Roadrunners against San Antonio. In all four meetings with the Rampage this season the Roadrunners are 0-for-23 on the power pay..
“That happens at this level and you just can’t get frustrated by it,” Van Ryn continued. “It’s easy to get frustrated by it. Then your PP starts gripping their sticks and it gets even worse. You just gotta relax and their getting looks and it just isn’t going in right now and it will.”
Nick Merkley returns
Tucson Roadrunners forward Nick Merkley returned to the lineup Wednesday against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Merkley is currently 11th among AHL rookies in scoring (35). But was a top-five scorer prior to leaving with injury.
Nearly seven weeks ago, he took a heavy hit to his upper body while playing a game against the Ontario Reign. Merkley tried to play in the late-January series against Chicago, but left immediately.
He played in the AHL All-Star classic, which some say may have made his injury worse. Merkley practiced with the team in the weeks following before the team announced his return on Wednesday.
When asked about how the team plans on getting Merkley back into the lineup, once he was ready, Coach Van Ryn said, “You just play him.”
- Despite Saturday’s loss, the Roadrunners claim the series win over San Antonio 7-5, having beat them in all three previous meetings in overtime.
- On Saturday, the Arizona Coyotes recalled forward Laurent Dauphin from the Roadrunners. Dauphin returned from a lower body injury on Friday and was credited with the assist on the game-winning goal in overtime. He was reassigned back to Tucson on Monday.
- In the second period on Saturday, Roadrunners forward Jens Looke was awarded a penalty shot due citing AHL Rules 53.6 & 56.6. Both rules are regarding throwing equipment. Looke missed the shot attempt to keep it scoreless.
- The Roadrunners will head on the road this, taking on Grand Rapids on February 28 and Cleveland on March 2 and 4. They will return to Tucson on March 9 and 10, when they host the Texas Stars.
Follow Robby Leano on Twitter at @RobLeano1