While everyone remains glued to the televisions watching the latest Cinderella stories during March Madness, the Tucson Roadrunners are slowly making their way closer to their first Calder Cup playoff berth in franchise history and a story of their own.
In my earlier Calder Countdown piece in January, I noted that March would be one of the Roadrunners biggest obstacles to making a playoff berth. That couldn’t remain any truer.
Nearing the end of the month now, the Roadrunners have a six-point lead (78-72) over the San Diego Gulls and Ontario Reign, and have still yet to give up their spot for the Pacific Division lead.
So, with only seven games remaining in the Roadrunners’ regular season, here are the biggest keys you need to know heading in to the final stretch.
Road Ice Advantage
One of the main reasons I noted above that March was “supposed” to be one of the Roadrunners’ toughest months was the amount of road games Tucson would have to play — nine.
But, with just one week remaining in March, Tucson had captured 11 of a possible 14 road points, with four more points up for grabs this weekend in Iowa (to make it potentially 15-of-18). T
To put it in other terms: Tucson has been a dominant road team this season. After their 3-2 loss to the San Jose Barracuda on Sunday, the Roadrunners moved to a 21-7-2-0 record on the road, which is quite a feat.
Continuing to be a winning road team will surely help the Roadrunners’ case as they head into playoff season.
The Magic Number
There are seven games remaining on the Roadrunners’ regular season schedule and, as of Tuesday, their magic number to reach the postseason is seven points.
There are many ways Tucson can get to that coveted seven points: The simplest is for it to win four of its remaining seven games for eight points.
Tucson’s magic number can, however, go down without having to play. In the event the first team, outside the Pacific Division playoff picture loses a game — in this case the Stockton Heat — the Roadrunners magic number would also go down by two.
Overall, the Roadrunners are in a great spot to make the playoffs.
- At the conclusion of the NCAA D1 regular season, the Arizona Coyotes signed prospect Merrick Madsen (G) from Harvard to a two-year entry-level contract. He was cleared to report to the Tucson Roadrunners last week.
- After the Roadrunners overtime loss to the San Jose Barracuda last Wednesday, head coach Mike Van Ryn was critical of the Roadrunners ability to start well. “And that’s probably the worst thing a coach can say, that you don’t start well... and a lot of that is on me,” he said
- Roadrunners forward Dylan Strome was called up to the Arizona Coyotes prior to Tucson’s series against San Jose last week. In the three games he’s played for the Coyotes last week, he has recorded one goal and one assist. Strome likely will remain with Arizona until the conclusion of their road trip.
- Roadrunners defenseman, Trevor Murphy — who was recalled the same transaction with Strome — played in his first NHL game and scored his first NHL goal, on Saturday.
- With a Manitoba Moose 4-2 loss to Rockford on Monday, the Roadrunners have now jumped to first in the AHL Western Conference, just a 0.7 points percentage ahead of the Moose. Tucson also sits at fifth in the American Hockey League.
- Of the seven remaining regular season games, four are at home against the Grand Rapids Griffins and San Diego Gulls.
Follow Robby Leano on Twitter @RobLeano1